Detroit terror suspect wants out of prison before trial

Rob Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Detroit man accused of plotting to use grenades to kill people and wage violent jihad on behalf of the Islamic State wants out of prison pending trial.

Sebastian Gregerson’s court-appointed lawyer Thursday asked to have his client released on bond, saying the federal government admits there is no evidence Gregerson had a specific plan to harm anyone or damage property. Instead, FBI agents and federal prosecutors are relying on “inflammatory statements” Gregerson made to an undercover agent, according to the lawyer.

Gregerson, 30, who is being held at a federal prison in Milan, could be released and outfitted with an electronic tether so he can live with his wife and two children in Detroit or with his parents near Ann Arbor, defense attorney David Tholen wrote in a court filing.

Investigators know Gregerson has a home in Detroit because they conducted extensive surveillance on the man, the lawyer wrote. That surveillance included installing a hidden camera atop a utility pole outside the home.

“(Gregerson) respectfully requests this court to reevaluate the appropriateness of bond in his case in light of the lack of danger and flight risk that (Gregerson) poses…,” Tholen wrote.

The request is pending in front of U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow.

The request comes almost two weeks after Gregerson was indicted on new charges and accused of planning to use explosives to kill people in an unspecified attack.

“Despite these new charges, the government has informed counsel that it does not have any evidence of defendant having any specific plan to harm any individual person, group of people, or to damage any property,” Tholen wrote.

Federal prosecutors oppose the request, Tholen added.

Separately, Tholen wants prosecutors to stop referring to Gregerson by the nickname Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl. Gregerson only used the name on social media as an homage to his father, Michael.

“He created it on a whim and has never used that name in any formal or informal interactions between institutions or individuals,” Tholen wrote earlier this month.

Gregerson grew up near Ann Arbor, and converted to Islam after high school. Until his arrest, he worked retail at a Target store.

Gregerson has been jailed since July 31. That’s when he was arrested in Monroe after allegedly buying five illegal fragmentation grenades from an undercover agent.

Days later, a federal magistrate judge concluded Gregerson was a danger to the community and ordered him held without bond pending trial, citing the alleged grenade purchases and the man’s arsenal of weapons. The arsenal included AK-47s, handguns, rifles, a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Tholen has said his client is merely a gun enthusiast, hunter and survivalist who has no criminal record. The firearms in question were bought legally, he added.

Gregerson only possessed the grenades “momentarily” and the FBI seized the weapons, Tholen wrote.

“The government has effectively removed defendant’s access to items which could arguably endanger the community,” the lawyer wrote. “(Gregerson) has been already been detained for 4 ½ months. He understands that if granted bond, any bond violations would only exacerbate his situation and subject him to enhanced penalties in this matter.”

The indictment revealed publicly what was alleged in sealed FBI search warrant affidavits obtained in September by The Detroit News.

The indictment, however, does not repeat allegations that a Maryland imam being investigated by the FBI financed part of Gregerson’s weapons arsenal. In the sealed affidavits, an FBI counterterrorism investigator said agents believed Gregerson and Maryland Imam Suleiman Bengharsa were plotting violent jihad.

Bengharsa, who also is known as Sheikh Suleiman Anwar, has not been charged with a crime during the ongoing investigation. In an interview with The News, Bengharsa denied being an Islamic State supporter.

Social media postings by both men led the FBI to conclude Gregerson and the imam support the Islamic State.

The FBI drew the conclusion after obtaining a search warrant in October for Gregerson’s Facebook account. Gregerson only had eight Facebook friends at the time, including the imam.

“Christians are not believers they are kafirun (infidels) and will enter hellfire,” Gregerson wrote in an August 2014 post on Facebook.

In February 2015, Gregerson allegedly wrote on Facebook: “Ignorant kuffar (infidels) will target those who cannot defend themselves. If they see strength they will run like the cowards they are...”

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