HARRISBURG – Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord, U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division announced today that Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz, age 20, a U.S. citizen and resident of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today before Chief United States District Court Judge Christopher C. Conner to conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization and transmitting a communication containing a threat to injure.
According to U.S. Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, on December 22, 2015, Aziz was charged in an indictment with conspiring and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization (Counts 1 and 2). A superseding indictment was returned on May 18, 2016, which added Solicitation to Commit a crime of violence (Count 3) and transmitting a communication containing a threat to injure (Count 4).
According to the superseding indictment, from July 2014 to December 17, 2015, Aziz knowingly conspired to provide, provided and attempted to provide material support, including personnel and services, to ISIL. The superseding indictment also alleges that during the same time period, Aziz solicited, commanded, induced and endeavored to persuade others to kill and attempt to kill officers and employees of the United States. The superseding indictment further alleges that he knowingly tweeted the names, addresses, photographs and military branches of approximately 100 U.S. service members to followers and viewers of his Twitter account. The communication also contained threats to injure the service members, stating “kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their street thinking that they are safe.”
Aziz pledged his allegiance to the leader of ISIL and used at least 71 different Twitter accounts to advocate violence against the United States and its citizens, to disseminate ISIL propaganda and to espouse pro-ISIL views. On at least three occasions, Aziz allegedly used his Twitter accounts and other electronic communication services to assist persons seeking to travel to and fight for ISIL. In one instance, Aziz allegedly acted as an intermediary between a person in Turkey and several well-known members of ISIL.
Aziz passed location information, including maps and a telephone number, between these ISIL supporters. A search of a tactical/military style backpack located in Aziz’s closet identified five loaded M4-style high-capacity magazines, a modified straight edge knife, a thumb drive, medication, flashlights, a toothbrush, sunflower seeds, a lighter, nail clippers, fingerless gloves, a pocket watch and a black balaclava, which is like a ski mask and similar to those worn by ISIL supporters.
“Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz conspired to provide material support to ISIL by aiding individuals in their pursuit of traveling overseas to join the designated foreign terrorist organization and by using social media to propagate ISIL’s threats to injure U.S. service members,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “The National Security Division’s highest priority is counterterrorism, and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to hold accountable those who seek to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations and threaten members of our military.”
United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler said, “The security of the American people is the highest priority for our office and the Department of Justice. While we cannot eliminate terrorism completely, we can bring to justice those responsible for providing material support and resources to terrorist groups and for spreading hate and destruction in our communities and abroad. Thankfully, the defendant’s activities were disrupted by the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force and justice will be served in this case.”
“As evidenced here, ISIL loyalists need not travel to the field of battle to threaten lives and do harm,” said Michael Harpster, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “An American citizen provided material support to terrorists from American soil, while enjoying all the rights and privileges scorned by ISIL. We are gratified that Mr. Aziz is being brought to justice for these acts.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), which includes the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania State Police, with assistance from the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. Assistant United States Attorney Daryl F. Bloom and Trial Attorneys Robert Sander and Adam L. Small of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section prosecuted the case.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty provided in the statute for Count 1, Conspiracy to Provide Material Support and Resources to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, is 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, aterm of supervised release of up to life and a $100 special assessment. The maximum penalty for Count 4,Transmitting a Communication Containing a Threat to Injure, is five years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, a term of supervised release of three years and a $100 special assessment.
Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.