LOS ANGELES – Filipino Ralph Deleon from Ontario, Calif., and his colleague Sohiel Omar Kabir were found guilty Thursday, Sept. 25 for their involvement with radical jihadist militant groups and plotting to kill Americans overseas.
Both Deleon and Kabir, who initially pleaded not guilty during the first few weeks of trial, were each charged with five counts of conspiracy and face life sentences for the convictions found by the jury in US District Court. The final judgment concludes a six-week trial that comes as the United States continues its air strike missions in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State militant groups.
Jurors were deadlocked on two of the five conspiracy accounts against Deleon, but the 25-year-old was found guilty of conspiring to provide materials and support to Al-Qaeda, and for plans to travel to Afghanistan to learn jihad and be trained to fight with the terrorist organization.
Prosecutors in the case presented video evidence by a government informant of the men plotting to leave the country for Afghanistan in late fall 2012 to commit terrorist acts, which include attacks on US military bases overseas. The informant, who attended the same mosque as Deleon, infiltrated the group in February earlier that year. He recorded tapes of them discussing their plans. Additional photo evidence was found on computers in Deleon’s home.
Miguel Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali, two co-conspirators from the Inland Empire area who also worked with Kabir and Deleon, had pleaded guilty to the crimes and were awaiting sentencing. Gojali faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, with 20 for Santana.
Defense lawyers portrayed the men as “hapless pot smokers who talked a big game, but didn’t actually intend any harm.”
“We respect the jury’s verdict, and are heartbroken,” Kabir’s attorney, Jeffrey A. Aaron, told the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
Deleon’s attorney, David Thomas, declined to comment.
“This case shows that the appeal of extremist ideologies can reach from Afghanistan to America,” said US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura, after the Riverside trial concluded.
It “demonstrates the clear need for continued vigilance in rooting out homegrown violent extremists who plot terrorist acts both here and abroad,” she continued.
FBI Los Angeles agent Bill Lewis also said, “The threat posted to America’s security by individuals within the United States who support terrorists is very real.”
“This case demonstrates the process by which individuals living in the US were groomed and radicalized toward an extremist ideology and, ultimately, planned the murder of American and coalition forces.”
Riverside Judge Virginia A. Phillips will hand down sentences in February, and Deleon will return to court on Oct. 20 to hear whether prosecutors will announce a new trial on the deadlocked counts.
(LA Weekend September 27-30, 2014 Sec. A pg.1)