Accused ISIS supporter denies trying to kill anyone
Detroit — An accused ISIS supporter from Dearborn Heights who posted messages about wanting to “skin people like sheep” and shoot up a Detroit church said Monday he wasn’t serious.
Khalil Abu Rayyan said he was an “ignorant, immature, naive kid” and has matured since being arrested by the FBI and pleading guilty to federal crimes.
Rayyan, 22, is awaiting sentencing in federal court in a case that raised questions about whether he was plotting a terrorist act.
“I never intended to hurt anyone,” the Muslim man told U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh during a hearing. “My behavior caused embarrassment to myself, my family, my community and my religion.”
Steeh said he expects to issue a sentence in one week.
The hearing focused on two extreme portraits of a man accused of boasting about plans to “shoot up” a Detroit church.
The case emerged in February 2016 amid heightened concerns about homegrown terrorism across the U.S.
Rayyan was charged following an FBI investigation that alleged he boasted to an undercover agent about plans to “shoot up” a Detroit church, kill a police officer in a hospital and “behead someone.”
The FBI quickly intervened and arrested him, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Waterstreet said.
“If there were any doubts that Abu Rayyan was serious, his previous conduct dispelled them. He spent years dedicated to ISIS — promoting and celebrating the terrorist organization’s aims. He exulted in some of ISIS’s most gruesome violence. He bragged about wanting to behead people,” Waterstreet said previously.
Rayyan pleaded guilty to two firearm charges in September.
Sentencing guidelines call for Rayyan to get 15 to 21 months in prison. Rayyan has been in federal detention for more than 13 months.
Defense lawyer Todd Shanker wrote in a March 2 sentencing memo that Rayyan “fully and completely” understands why the FBI targeted him and why officials were concerned about his threatening statements and behavior, particularly his social media messaging and statements supporting ISIS.
At the time of his arrest, he lived at home with his parents and siblings and worked at his father’s pizzeria.
“Rayyan now unequivocally denounces ISIS — its predations, brutality and terrorism. He now has a more informed understanding of his faith and the bastardization of the religion by radical elements (like ISIS),” Shanker said.
But the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants Rayyan behind bars for eight years to protect the public from a man they say cannot be watched around the clock if released.
Shanker wants Steeh to cap that sentence at 15 months.
If approved, Rayyan would get credit for time served and would be released within a few months. He would likely be placed on supervised release by the federal court.
Jennifer Chambers contributed