The man accused of plotting to kill U.S. military personnel during an attack on a Seattle military processing station pleaded guilty today to conspiring to murder government employees with small-arms fire and grenades during a hearing in U.S. District Court.
Abdul Khalid Abdul-Latif, 35, will face between 17 and 19 years prison when he is sentenced on March 25, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg, the lead prosecutor in the case.
Several other charges were dismissed, including a count of conspiring to use a firearm during a crime of violence – a charge that carries a 30-year mandatory sentence.
The plea came just two weeks before an evidentiary hearing was scheduled to determine the impact on the prosecution of revelations that a confidential informant, whose testimony was key to the case, admitted deleting hundreds of text messages from his phone during the investigation in the summer 0f 2011.
A Seattle police detective and the informant’s handler also deleted material from his phone, despite being told not to by Greenberg and the FBI.
Following a hearing two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge James Robart had left open the possibility that Greenberg and the other federal prosecutor on the case, Michael Dion, might have to testify for the defense, which would have been a significant if not crippling setback for the case.
According to a federal indictment, Abdul-Latif, formerly known as Joseph Anthony Davis, a felon and Muslim convert, was the mastermind of the plot. He and co-defendant, Walli Mujahidh planned to carry out the attack at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) on East Marginal Way South the day after Independence Day 2011, the charges alleged.
Seattle police learned of the conspiracy in May 2011 when the confidential informant said he was approached by Abdul-Latif, whom he knew previously, about obtaining weapons and possibly participating in the raid.
Police and the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force hired the informant to obtain information on the plot — including extensive taped conversations. The men were arrested after Abdul-Latif allegedly paid the informant for rifles and grenades that had been secretly disabled by federal agents.
The role of the informant — who police say has at least five felony convictions himself — was questioned by Abdul-Latif’s public defenders.
According to the FBI, the informant recorded conversations with the men in which Abdul-Latif said he hoped the attacks would inspire other young Muslims to rise up against the West.
Abdul-Latif had posted angry anti-American and anti-Western videos on a YouTube channel and he railed against the wars in Afghanistan and the revolts in the Middle East that were pitting Muslim against Muslim.
According to court documents and law-enforcement sources, he had initially chosen Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a target at least partly because Stryker soldiers there are being court-martialed for allegedly murdering Afghan civilians. The target was changed later to the MEPS.
Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue, has a long history of mental illness. He already has pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 25. Prosecutors have promised to ask for a sentence of 27 to 32 years.