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Convicted TX ISIS supporter wants new trial, says he was misled

An ISIS fighter carries the Islamic State flag. (Wikipedia/Released)
September 20, 2018

Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan is requesting a new federal trial after being sentenced in 2017 to 16 years in prison for attempting to support ISIS.

Part of Al Hardan’s sentence included a lifetime of supervision after his release, but he now said that he didn’t fully comprehend the penalty for violating the supervised release order and now wants a new trial, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Court documents filed Tuesday with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated Al Hardan was unaware if he violated the terms upon his release that he faced life in prison. His sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes.

He said that both the judge and his court-appointed lawyer failed to make sure he understood the sentence when he pleaded guilty.

David Adler, Al Hardan’s court-appointed attorney, said the judge was very clear about the consequences of violating the terms after he was released.

Yet the appellate briefing quoted Judge Hughes in 2016 as she explained the sentence to Al Hardan: “Now, the maximum penalty — I’m not saying this is what I’m going to give you — that the statute would allow on your plea of guilty is for you to be imprisoned for 20 years, fined $250,000 and supervised release with up to your — up to life and there is a $100 tax. Do you have any question about the punishment?”

Al Hardan said he was clear on his sentence.

David Sterman, a senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation said he is not surprised that Al Hardan is requesting a new trial.

Sterman, who is quite familiar with U.S. terrorism cases said it is especially common in cases where the defendant pleaded guilty.

“You’ll often see appeals or statements of intent to appeal like this. It doesn’t surprise me — this seems relatively in line with the general legal wrangling over terrorism cases,” Sterman said.

He added that going back to 9/11, none of those charged with terrorism-related cases have been cleared on charges or had their convictions overturned.

In Oct. 2016, Al Hardan pleaded guilty to charges of associating with Islamist militants, making a pledge to ISIS, falsifying passport documents, and gathering the necessary supplies to build remote detonators at his home in West Houston.

Also, Al Hardan didn’t refute the claim by the government that he had conversations about supporting jihadists by decapitating U.S. citizens.

Al Hardan’s court-appointed attorney for his appeal, Yolanda Jarmon, said in court that Al Hardan would never have pleaded guilty had he known he could receive life in prison for violating his sentence.