Feds: Terror suspect used alias with IS supporters
Detroit — A Detroit man accused of plotting jihad on behalf of the Islamic State should continue being referred to by his Arabic alias because that’s what his wife and fellow extremists called him, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Prosecutors made the claim while fighting a defense request to scrub Sebastian Gregerson’s alias Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl from an indictment charging the man with several felonies punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. The charges include receipt of explosive materials with intent to harm.
Defense lawyer David Tholen said the alias was merely used on social media and as an homage to his father Michael. Prosecutors said Gregerson signed emails with the alias, “including emails to associates who are (Islamic State) supporters,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken wrote in a filing Friday.
Friends and relatives referred to him by the name, including his wife, who used the alias in texts and stored his phone number under the name, according to the filing.
“There is evidence of the defendant’s support for and identification with (Islamic State) in emails and Facebook postings in the name of his alias and, therefore, the alias connects the defendant to the charged conduct and is properly included in the indictment,” Corken wrote.
The legal wrangling is the latest development in an ongoing terror case being investigated in at least three states. Gregerson is accused of buying fragmentation grenades from an undercover FBI employee. Gregerson also is believed to have been plotting violent jihad with a radical former imam in Maryland, according to court records.
The imam financed part of Gregerson’s armory of weapons, which included grenades, AK-47s, handguns, rifles, a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to sealed court documents obtained by The Detroit News.
“The charges against the defendant in this case are based on his acquisition of weapons, including grenades, and other material to equip himself, as (the Islamic State) instructs, in preparation for violent acts against “infidels” with whom (the Islamic State) believes it is waging an ongoing war,” Corken wrote.
Gregerson, 30, grew up near Ann Arbor and converted to Islam after high school. He is married, the father of 4-year-old twins and, until his arrest, worked retail at a Target store.
Gregerson’s lawyer is trying to get the man released from prison while awaiting trial. Gregerson has been jailed since July following a 16-month, undercover, counter-terrorism investigation.
Gregerson was not aligned with the Islamic State and never talked about initiating violence against anyone, Tholen wrote in an earlier filing.
Social media postings by Gregerson and the imam led the FBI to conclude they support the Islamic State.
“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...”
Gregerson also was interested in Ahmad Jibril, a Dearborn cleric cited as an inspirational leader for Syrian militants, according to court records.
“His most inflammatory statements are actually hypothetical statements of how he could respond to protect himself, his family, and fellow Muslims if the country fell into economic collapse, civil unrest, or a natural disaster and his community was placed in danger or under attack,” Tholen wrote in a filing.
Gregerson’s comments, “while inflammatory, is protected political speech,” the lawyer added.
The lawyer is pushing prosecutors to unmask an undercover FBI employee who met with Gregerson multiple times. The employee posed as a Muslim convert with extensive military training and experience, Tholen wrote.
The government also has refused to identify a source who sparked the investigation after telling the FBI that Gregerson was an Islamic State supporter who possessed a bazooka.
“The government has refused to name the confidential source or provide any reports of agent interviews with the unnamed source,” Tholen wrote. “Defendant denies ever stating he wanted to move to an ISIL controlled country or that he ever had grenades or a bazooka.”
Agents never found a bazooka during a raid at Gregerson’s home last summer, the lawyer added.
“...the information from the confidential source should be viewed with skepticism,” Tholen wrote.
Based on secretly recorded conversations between Gregerson and the undercover FBI employee, prosecutors claim Gregerson fantasized about killing local Muslim religious leaders and a park ranger.
Gregerson was arrested in Monroe on July 31 after allegedly buying fragmentation grenades from an undercover FBI agent.
“It was the undercover government employee, not (Gregerson), who initiated the grenade transaction and suggested to (Gregerson) that it could be accomplished through a military friend...,” Tholen wrote. “The same undercover government employee suggested the possibility of acquiring claymore mines...many of the discussions were initiated and steered by the undercover government employee.”