‘Fort Dix Six’ suspect to plead guilty
(Gloucester County Times ) A Monroe Township supermarket worker accused of arming a band of immigrant Muslims intent on attacking Fort Dix will plead guilty today to weapons charges, his attorney said.
Agron Abdullahu of Collings Lakes in Atlantic County will admit to conspiring to help illegal immigrants obtain or possess weapons, federal public defender Richard Coughlin said. The crime carries a maximum term of five years, but his attorneys previously have said the federal guidelines for the crime suggest a sentence of less than two years.
Abdullahu’s decision to plead guilty is not expected to drastically alter the case. Since his arrest with the others in May, prosecutors have emphasized Abdullahu was not accused of participating in the overarching plot to kill U.S. soldiers. And, his attorney said, he is not cooperating with investigators.
A 24-year-old ethnic Albanian who fled Kosovo in 1999, Abdullahu settled with his family in Buena Vista and worked at a local ShopRite. As a legal U.S. resident, he was the only defendant capable of buying guns. Prosecutors say he helped train the others at a firing range in northeast Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2007.
“There’s no acknowledgment of being involved in terrorism,” Coughlin said after a brief conference Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler in Camden. “Basically he took them to the Poconos and allowed them to use (his guns).”
Prosecutors and Coughlin had previously refused to comment on reports of a pending plea, wary of any last-minute changes. But Abdullahu was the only defendant not in court for Tuesday’s hearing.
“Now tomorrow, apparently, we’re going to have a plea for Mr. Coughlin’s defendant?” Kugler asked, a question that seemed to surprise Deputy U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick.
“Yes, sir,” the prosecutor replied.
Greg Reinert, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, said the office would have no comment before today’s hearing.
The other defendants Mohamad Shnewer and brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka, all of Cherry Hill, and Serdar Tatar of Philadelphia are scheduled to be tried in January. Prosecutors have called them “radical Islamists” and homegrown terrorists who studied al Qaeda videos and wanted to storm Fort Dix with automatic weapons.
Their arrests ended an FBI investigation that spanned 15 months and included hundreds of hours of secret recordings made by informants who infiltrated the group.
Each of the defendants has been jailed without bail since their arrests. During the hearing Tuesday, several complained to the judge that they had been mistreated and denied routine inmate privileges at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center.
Kugler agreed to convene a meeting between defense attorneys and the prison officials. But, he cautioned, “All of the defendants need to understand it’s called a jail for a reason. It’s not a motel, it’s a jail.”
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