26 February 2015

Filipino Terrorist Convicted in the U.S.

Pinoy Terrorista
Finally, the American courts have decided to convict a Filipino extremist for terrorism.

Philippine national Ralph Kenneth De Leon received a 25-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty of three terrorism related charges last fall.

In his letter to US District Judge Virgina Philipps, the 26-year-old Laguna-born De Leon said he had no excuse for his senseless action, describing his conversion from Catholicism to Islam as overzealous. He also admitted that he was not mad at the government but at himself.

As he denounced extremist violence in the letter, he said that upon his release he hopes to speak before mosques and youth about the peaceful teachings of the Quran.

De Leon’s co-defendant Soheil Omar Kabir, the alleged ring leader of a terroristic plot was also convicted of four counts and also received 25 years. The two were planning to recruit and train several men to go to the Middle East and join Al Qaeda.

De Leon’s lawyer David Thomas tried to downplay the severity of his client’s culpability even if it was obvious during the hearing that De Leon is a very dangerous criminal.

"I’m disappointed. I mean I think he should’ve deserved a sentence in the 10 year range which is what I recommended; very much on par with some of the cases I cited on my brief for conduct that was similar, if not worse than his. One of the factors that I had to deal with is this was a conspiracy. And with respect to conspiracy, it’s not just his own motivations that were at play but those of others. At a certain degree his sentence was higher because of the danger of the other co-defendants and it really wasn’t Mr. De Leon," Thomas said as he exited the courthouse.

Throughout the six-week trial and until now, De Leon had argued that he was entrapped by a confidential informant who persuaded him into organizing the alleged terror plot while Kabir was overseas. What he did not explain is why was he stupid enough to do it anyway.

"There’s definitely going to be an appeal. He’s already signed off on the appeal and I’ve already got it ready to file," Thomas explained.

He added, "We’re hopeful on appeal that the court will see this was really a situation for entrapment. Even though I understand the government’s argument, the judges argument why it’s not, I think the jury should’ve been instructed and I think it would’ve made a difference."

De Leon’s parents shed tears inside the courtroom as the sentence was handed down, but declined to speak on camera. Hopefully, those tears won’t convince the Philippine government to waste precious resources to try and defend the liability of De Leon.