Sentencing for Berkeley High School alumnus, alleged Islamic State group supporter continues

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August Gugelmann/Courtesy

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Sentencing for 23-year-old Berkeley High School alumnus Amer Alhaggagi, who pleaded guilty for attempting to provide material to a foreign terrorist group and identity theft charges, began Dec. 17, 2018, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

After his indictment, Alhaggagi admitted to creating Twitter and Facebook accounts for individuals he believed were Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, supporters, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. According to court documents, the prosecution is suggesting a 33-year sentence followed by life on supervised release for Alhaggagi and a $50,000 fine.

Recently, officials released a video in which Alhaggagi is being driven by an undercover federal agent while discussing buying materials for attacks and proposing possible targets, such as the UC Berkeley dorms and setting fire to the Berkeley Hills, in 2016.

“I got it all covered,” Alhaggagi said in the video. “I want to make it to the point where every American here like thinks twice or three times before he leaves his home.”

Alhaggagi’s attorneys August Gugelmann and Mary McNamara said Alhaggagi was an immature 21-year-old at the time of his arrest, has the “mentality of a teenager” and exhibits “trash talking” behavior, according to court documents.

During the Dec. 17 hearing, the defense called upon the advice of Dr. Marc Sageman — a former CIA agent, psychiatrist and senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Center for the Study of Terrorism.

According to court documents, Sageman reviewed the case and conducted an extensive evaluation of Alhaggagi that lasted days. Sageman found that Alhaggagi appeared to be “frozen at an immature stage of adolescence” and that he lacked an “ideological commitment to jihad.”

In his statement, Alhaggagi credited this behavior to trying to maintain his internet persona, in which he would “see how long (he) could go” when talking in this persona. Alhaggadi added that he “did not realize the seriousness” of his actions while he was being investigated.

The Alhaggagi family released a statement saying that their son is “not a terrorist” and he never committed a violent act. They added that Alhaggagi has the support of his family and community and that they hope the court will “agree Amer is not a threat.”

“My parents, my family and the Yemeni community have all been deeply damaged by what I did,” Alhaggagi said in his statement. “I feel so embarrassed and humiliated by my actions, my stupidity and my thoughtlessness.”

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, who is the presiding judge for Alhaggagi’s case, has set a second hearing for Feb. 26. Two jailhouse informants are expected to testify to allegedly hearing Alhaggagi talk about planting bombs in jail at this hearing.

Clara Rodas covers race and diversity. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.