Longer sentence sought against baker in Fort Dix plot

March 25, 2008 6:13:41 PM PDT
Prosecutors are seeking a stiffer sentence for a New Jersey baker who admitted letting suspects in an alleged plot to attack the Army's Fort Dix fire his guns. Agron Abdullahu faces 10 to 16 months in prison under prescribed guidelines when sentenced Monday in federal court in Camden.

Prosecutors argue that the guidelines do not account for the severity of his offense, asserting that Abdullahu knew that the suspects who used his weapons at a shooting range in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains "viewed their use as training for a more nefarious purpose."

The guidelines "will not take into account the fact that Abdullahu was providing firearms to persons who expressed their devotion to jihad," prosecutors wrote to U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler.

In Monday's filing, prosecutors do not specify what sentence they want.

Abdullahu's lawyer, public defender Richard Coughlin, was to file a response later in the week. A message seeking comment from Coughlin on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

The prosecution filing was first reported in Tuesday's editions of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Coughlin has maintained that Abdullahu had no role in any plot, and prosecutors never charged him with the more serious counts faced by five other young men, who are scheduled to be tried in September.

They were charged with conspiring to kill military personnel and face life in prison if they're convicted. The government said those men - brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka; Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer; and Sedar Tatar - scouted out East Coast military installations looking for one to attack.

Abdullahu, 25, pleaded guilty to a weapons conspiracy charge in October, providing weapons to illegal immigrants, which carries up to five years in prison. He admitted allowing the Duka brothers, who were all in the United States illegally, to use a Beretta 9 mm pistol and Yugoslav semiautomatic rifle - both of which he owned legally - at the shooting range in 2006 and 2007.

The prosecution's filing discloses transcripts from profanity-laced conversations secretly recorded by one of two FBI informants who spied on the group during the 2007 trip.

"Throughout these conversations, defendant Abdullahu heard the Dukas speak explicitly of their desire to train to become snipers and inflict casualties on United States soldiers, and to murder United States soldiers 'from the inside,"' prosecutors said.

"Defendant Abdullahu also heard both Dritan Duka and Eljvir Duka speak with reverence about the Taliban, Iraqi insurgents, and (the late insurgent leader Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi. Defendant Abdullahu also heard the Dukas plainly identify themselves with the Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban," and speak happily of American casualties, prosecutors said.

In one exchange, Dritan Duka said, "I want to train with a sniper rifle." Abdullahu replied, "I, I, I teach you brother."

In another, Abdullahu listens as two of the Duka brothers discuss the range of a firearm.

"Would you hit the American soldiers in Iraq?" Eljvir Duka asked?

"From a mile away," replied Dritan Duka.

Abdullahu corrected him: "Not quite a mile, it shoots about three-quarters of a mile," according to the transcript.

Moments later, Dritan Duka asked, "Do you think I can stand far enough from the White House?"

Eljvir Duka responded, "Do you think I can hit George Bush from (unintelligible)."

But in a different tape, not cited in this filing, Abdullahu told his friends that attacking a military installation would be "crazy" and contrary to the teaching of Islam.

After serving his term, Abdullahu could face deportation, but it's unclear where he would go. His family of ethnic Albanians was granted asylum in the United States in 1999 after fleeing Kosovo, which is a province of Serbia.

They settled in Buena Vista Township, some 35 miles southeast of Philadelphia, and got jobs in supermarkets. Abdullahu became a baker and, his family has said, the main source of income for the family.