The case of a Massachusetts man who prosecutors say plotted to attack police and behead a conservative blogger on behalf of Islamic State nears a close on Tuesday as lawyers make closing arguments.
Federal prosecutors contend that David Wright, 28, along with his uncle and a friend had plotted to kill the woman who organized the 2015 “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, a plan they said unraveled when the uncle lost patience and said he wanted to kill police officers instead.
Wright, who took the witness stand in his own defense last week, testified that his discussions with the other two men about Islamic state were “role playing” that served as a distraction when he was broke, weighed 530 pounds (240 kg), and was living in his family’s home in the Boston suburb of Everett and spending his days playing video games.
“I created a fantasy world,” Wright testified, denying that there had been a plan to kill Pamela Geller, the organizer of the “Draw Mohammed” contest. “I’m beginning to realize how horrible some of the stuff I said was. It makes me really sick.”
Prosecutors said they had been monitoring communications between Wright, his uncle, Usamaah Abdullah Rahim, and friend Nicholas Rovinski, and heard them plot the attack. They also overheard Rahim when he told the pair he planned to kill law enforcement officers, a message that prompted police to try to question him in a supermarket parking lot.
Rahim pulled a knife on the officers, who shot him dead.
If Wright is found guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, he could face a life sentence. He is also charged with conspiracy to support a terrorist organization and obstruction of justice, allegedly for telling Rahim to destroy his phone before attacking police, as well as for attempting to destroy all information on his computer.
Geller had organized the Texas event in May 2015 highlighting cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event and were shot dead by police.
Geller contends her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Rovinski in 2016 pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Rahim’s family have denied he had shown any signs of radicalization.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Leslie Adler)