ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A former police officer who tried to help the Islamic State by purchasing $245 in gift cards will still serve 15 years in prison, even though some of his convictions were tossed out on appeal.
Nicholas Young of Fairfax, Virginia, was sentenced to 15 years last year for obstruction of justice and attempting to provide support to a terrorist group. But the federal appeals court in Richmond tossed out the obstruction convictions in February and ordered a new sentencing hearing.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema reimposed the 15-year term, saying Young’s conduct remains troubling. She said Young’s status as a police officer stood out and that he was “a law enforcement officer who on more than one occasion lied to another law enforcement officer.”
Young was the first law enforcement officer to be charged with a federal terrorism offense. He had been a patrol officer in the D.C. region’s Metrorail system and was known as “Officer Friendly” at the Takoma Park station where he was assigned.
But Young, a convert to Islam, had been under surveillance going back at least as far as 2010. He was friends with Zachary Chesser, another convert who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trying to join the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia and for making threats against the creators of the “South Park” cartoon series for episodes he deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.
In 2016, Young purchased more than $200 in gift cards he believed would be used to purchase mobile-phone apps the Islamic State could use to communicate securely. In reality, though, Young’s Islamic State connection was an FBI informant.
At Young’s 2017 trial, jurors also learned of other troubling behavior: He traveled to Libya, where prosecutors say he served with a militant group that hadn’t been officially designated as a terrorist group. In addition, jurors learned that Young trafficked in Nazi memorabilia that prosecutors say were an offshoot of anti-Semitic views that meshed with his embrace of militant Islam. Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to keep the Nazi evidence out of the trial, saying it was unfairly prejudicial.
Defense lawyers had asked Brinkema to cut Young’s term to five years. In court papers, defense lawyer Jessica Carmichael wrote that Young is now “66.6 percent less guilty” because two of the three counts against him were tossed out by the appeals court.
Young, before he was resentenced, said he knew he made a mistake but also placed blame on the informant, who asked him to buy the gift cards “and pretended to be my friend.”
“That one small mistake is now defining the rest of my life,” he said.
Prosecutor Gordon Kromberg said there’s no way to minimize criminal conduct that was intended to benefit the Islamic State, and that Young’s ultimate goal was to “send money so fighters could be sent to ISIS to murder and enslave other people.”