Daniel Patrick Boyd filed a guilty plea Wednesday afternoon to charges of conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss several other counts against him.
Boyd did not comment during the hearing except to answer yes-or-no questions from the judge. He was tearful, and his beard had been shaven clean.
Two of Boyd's sons - Zakariya and Dylan - are among several other people charged in the case. A trial is scheduled for September.
Boyd was a drywall contractor who lived in an unassuming lakeside home south of Raleigh when prosecutors indicted him in July 2009 on charges of plotting terrorism and conspiring to support terrorism. Boyd's wife, Sabrina, has denied that her husband or sons were involved in any terrorist activity.
Boyd wore a red-and-white jumpsuit during the hearing and smiled at a few family members at the beginning and end of the session. He will be sentenced in about three months and could get as much as life in prison for one count and up to 15 years for the other.
Prosecutors said they had an array of evidence to use if the case went to trial, including hundreds of recorded phone calls and hundreds of e-mails. Prosecutors said Boyd became somewhat of a revered figure in the Raleigh-area Muslim community and that some believers, particularly young ones, turned to him for advice and that Boyd affirmed the need for waging violent jihad.
"He did so knowing that he had influence on these young people," said prosecutor John Bowler.
Family members declined to comment while leaving the courthouse. Prosecutors said Boyd is cooperating in the case.
"This case drives home the point that homegrown terrorism is the greatest threat we're facing right now in the homeland," U.S. Attorney George Holding said outside the hearing. "The radicalization of Muslims here in our country is a very serious threat."
During an initial court hearing in 2009, federal authorities played audio tapes of Boyd talking about his disgust with the U.S. military, the honor of martyrdom and the need to protect Muslims at all costs. In one, a voice that authorities identified as Boyd says: "I love jihad. I love to stand there and fight for the sake of Allah."
The FBI has said agents seized some two dozen guns and more than 27,000 rounds of ammunition from Boyd's home. Authorities have previously said the men went on training expeditions in the weeks leading up to their arrest, practicing military tactics with armor-piercing bullets on a property in rural North Carolina.
Boyd grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and converted to Islam as a teenager. He traveled with his family and brother to Pakistan two decades ago, and prosecutors say they trained in terrorist camps and fought the Soviet Union.
In 1991, the Boyd brothers were convicted of robbing a bank in Pakistan, but a sentence that included amputations of a hand and foot was overturned.