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Sentencing delayed for Kansas man in foiled bomb plot

Roxana Hegeman
Associated Press

Wichita, Kan. — A federal judge delayed a sentencing decision Wednesday for a Kansas man who admitted aiding a wannabe Islamic State jihadist’s plan to detonate what they thought was a bomb at Fort Riley.

Alexander Blair has admitted his role in a foiled plan to kill or maim as many U.S. service members as possible at the Kansas military post. Blair has said that “nobody is perfect” and blames a genetic disorder for allowing others to take advantage of him.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree is weighing that and other factors as he calculates how much prison time, if any, the 29-year-old Topeka man should serve. But after hearing testimony from a psychologist Wednesday, the judge concluded he wanted some time to go over the material before handing down a sentence, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

No new sentencing date was immediately set.

Blair pleaded guilty in May to a conspiracy count that carries up to five years’ imprisonment. He admitted loaning John T. Booker $100, knowing it would be used to pay for storage of the device, which was a fake bomb given to Booker by undercover FBI agents during a sting operation. Investigators say Booker planned to detonate it in April 2015 outside Fort Riley, about 60 miles west of Topeka.

Booker, of Topeka, was arrested outside the post as he was trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound explosive device. He pleaded guilty in February to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempting to destroy government property with an explosive device. His plea deal calls for him to serve 30 years in prison, but a sentencing hearing has not been set.

Prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence for Blair, arguing that the government already considered his learning disability, known as Williams Syndrome, and his limited role in the plot when it charged him with a lesser crime than Booker. His defense attorney is asking for probation.

“I am not a Hardliner Jihadi, I am just a human being that made a big mistake,” Blair wrote in a letter to the judge. “Nobody is perfect, and we all make mistakes at some point in our lives. This was mine.”

Three months before his arrest, Blair began attending the Islamic Center of Topeka where Booker befriended him. Blair’s attorney, Christopher Joseph, argued in a court filing that his client’s “unique biological constitution made him particularly vulnerable and naive in his interactions with Booker.”

Joseph cited the findings of forensic psychiatrist Stephen E. Peterson, who reported that Blair has great difficulty keeping friends and has a bit of a “puppy syndrome.”

The government countered that Blair’s excuses do not negate the chilling statements he made in an interview with FBI agents in which he acknowledged knowing the specifics of Booker’s plan when he loaned him the money.

When agents asked how it would weigh on him that women and children would be killed because he failed to tell authorities of Booker’s plan, Blair told them that in the war on terror, U.S. soldiers bomb towns and kill women and children. He also differentiated civilians from the military, telling agents “that’s what (soldiers) signed up for.”