UNITED STATES NEWS

15-year sentence for man who wanted to bomb bank

Feb 28, 2014, 7:26 AM

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – A California man with delusions of joining the Taliban was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for trying to blow up a bank with a car bomb he thought would go off but was actually made up of inert materials supplied by the FBI.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Gonzalez Rogers said Thursday she was satisfied that the sentence _ spelled out in a plea deal between Matthew Aaron Llaneza and federal prosecutors _ struck a balance between acknowledging the 29-year-old San Jose resident’s mental condition and punishing him for actions that “by their nature are terrorist.”

Llaneza was arrested last February near a Bank of America building in Oakland after he tried to detonate an SUV loaded with chemicals he secured with the help of an FBI agent posing as a Taliban go-between.

Both the vehicle and the inert chemicals loaded inside were supplied by FBI agents after Llaneza allegedly made contact with an undercover agent who pretended to have connections with the Taliban and helped him build a phony car bomb. He was arrested near the four-story bank building in Oakland after he pressed a cellphone trigger to try to detonate the explosives, which he believed were real.

The FBI alleges Llaneza hoped the explosion would be blamed on anti-government militias and prompt a government crackdown that would touch off civil unrest in the United States. He also allegedly bragged that he had experience in guerrilla warfare and expressed a desire to join the Taliban in Afghanistan after carrying out the terrorist plot.

The judge acknowledged that Llaneza sought to minimize deaths and injuries from his failed plot by carrying it out in the middle of the night and may have been motivated as much by a desire for human connection than hated for his country. Within that context, “Fifteen years is sufficient, but not more than necessary,” Rogers said.

“This case, like many others we all read about, seems to indicate there are individuals who have been rejected time and time again who are looking to belong and to be accepted,” Rogers said. “This was a most unfortunate way of doing about it.”

Along with the prison term, Rogers sentenced Llaneza to spend the rest of his life on probation, meaning law enforcement officers will be free to search him at any time.

Llaneza pleaded guilty in October to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, a conviction that would ordinarily carry a sentence of 30 years to life. Looking slight, pale and wide-eyed during his court appearance Thursday, Llaneza apologized to the judge, said he was taking psychiatric medication and would “seek rehabilitation while incarcerated.”

Llaneza’s parents, Steven Llaneza and Dora Tune, had submitted a letter to the judge attesting to his “his genuinely good core character” and lifetime of struggles.

“The conduct he pleaded guilty to is very out of character for him, and we never ever would have thought he would come up with an idea like he has been accused of,” they said.

Steven Llaneza attended Thursday’s hearing but did not address the court. He declined to speak with reporters afterward.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a pre-sentencing memo that it took into account Llaneza’s history of mental illness _ he has been diagnosed at various times as suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder _ and the fact that he tried to minimize casualties by trying to blow up the building in the early morning when it would be mostly unoccupied.

“Defendants’ conduct here was very serious. He knowingly and willfully participated in a plan to blow up a bank building. He created the plan and selected the target. He helped build what he believed to be a large bomb to accomplish the plan. He drove the bomb to the bank building, placed it in a location designed to maximize its destructive force, then attempted to detonate it twice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Caputo wrote in the memo.

“Had the bomb been real, it would have destroyed at least a portion of the building and easily could have killed or seriously injured innocent bystanders.”

Llaneza’s defense lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jerome Matthews, said in a memo of his own that he would not argue with a 15-year sentence during Thursday’s hearing even though “it is an open question whether Matthew Llaneza would have participated in a plot to detonate a car bomb had he not been introduced to and guided by an undercover FBI agent.”

“Matthew was not a radicalized jihadist but rather a delusional, severely mentally disturbed young man; he had no technical skills to speak of,” Matthews wrote. “He had no training or background that would have helped him to accomplish an actual bombing; he was preternaturally suggestible and desirous of being accepted; and, not least, he had no desire to inflict mass casualties.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Barrage of gunfire as officers confront Houston megachurch shooter, released body cam footage shows

HOUSTON (AP) — Body camera footage released by Houston police on Monday showed off-duty officers confronting a woman who opened fire at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch earlier this month before she was gunned down. Houston police released footage from two of its officers who were at Lakewood Church as well as video from […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Editorial Roundup: United States

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad: Feb. 22 The Washington Post on the Biden impeachment inquiry Until this month, House Republicans referred to information provided by a “highly credible” FBI informant as the core of their case to impeach President Biden. This week, they quietly deleted any mention of that source […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

United Daughters of the Confederacy would lose Virginia tax breaks, if Youngkin signs off

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Legislation that would end tax benefits for the United Daughters of the Confederacy — the Richmond-based women’s group that helped erect many of the country’s Confederate monuments — is on its way to Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who hasn’t said whether he supports it. The Democratic-led House of Delegates gave […]

2 hours ago

In this image provided Malia Pila, Nex Benedict poses outside the family's home in Owasso, Okla., i...

Associated Press

Students walk out of Oklahoma high school where nonbinary student was beaten and later died

OWASSO, Okla. (AP) — More than a dozen students walked out of class Monday at an Oklahoma high school where a 16-year-old nonbinary student was beaten inside a restroom earlier this month and died the following day. Students and LGBTQ+ advocates held signs that read “You Are Loved” and “Protect Queer Kids” as they gathered […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Republicans say Georgia student’s killing shows Biden’s migration policies have failed

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Students at two Georgia colleges grappled Monday with the killing of a nursing student killed in a violent act that Republicans including former President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp blamed on the immigration policies of President Joe Biden. The killing of 22-year-old Laken Riley revived a theme — migrants committing […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Magnitude 4.9 earthquake shakes Idaho, but no injuries reported

BOISE, Idaho. (AP) — An earthquake of 4.9 magnitude struck north of Boise, Idaho, on Monday, reportedly causing no major damage or injuries, authorities said. The quake happened at 10:25 a.m. and was centered about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) north of Smiths Ferry, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Two smaller earthquakes followed in the […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

15-year sentence for man who wanted to bomb bank