After 16-months of intense surveillance, the FBI was able to arrest a Detriot man on charges tied to his connections to ISIS. American Sebastian Gregerson, who now uses the name Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl, will spend the next four years in prison for his efforts to gain access to weapons including an unregistered destructive device. While a sentence like this would be seen as a victory for the FBI, this case is slightly different. Authorities fear that Gregerson has a well established ISIS network that will still be an issue when he finishes his sentence.
According to a court report:
“An Islamic State “soldier” accused of plotting violent jihad was sentenced to almost four years in federal prison Wednesday in a case that leaves lingering questions about his network of radical supporters.
The 45-month sentence for Detroiter Sebastian Gregerson, aka Abdurrahman Bin Mikaayl, capped a prolonged FBI investigation involving Islamic State supporters, radical threats and an imam who helped Gregerson amass a weapons cache.
Gregerson, 30, did not react to the sentence and declined to address U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow. He also declined to clarify dueling portraits drawn by the government –which called him an unrepentant radical ISIS supporter – and his lawyer who said Gregerson never plotted an attack and merely exercised his free speech rights while praising terrorist attacks worldwide and amassing a weapons arsenal.
“I don’t know how dangerous you are but your conduct has not created an action event that could be called dangerous,” the judge said. “If your language is accurate and meaningful, the only way to deter you is to put you in prison for the rest of your life.”
While Judge Tarnow pointed to the fact that Gregerson was dangerous enough to warrant being put away for the rest of his life, this was not what the agreement was for. A plea was set between both sides of the case, and this sent him to prison for no more than 45 months.
One of the biggest sticking points of this case came as the defense lawyers argued that Gregerson was not a member of ISIS, but was just using his freedom of speech to share unpopular opinions. The lawyers downplayed the massive weapons stash authorities found in Gregerson’s apartment.
While one side wanted the court to believe Gregerson was within his legal rights to talk about ISIS, the other side of the case was not buying into this insane tangent to the case. This same lawyer argued that his client was not connected to ISIS and stock piling weapons for doomsday. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken:
“He approves of terrorist attacks by ISIS and views himself as a soldier in that war.”
Corken said social media posts and conversations recorded by an undercover FBI employee during a 16-month investigation proved Gregerson supported ISIS. She cited several comments Gregerson made, including one in which he critiqued ISIS attacks and suggested ways to boost the body count.
“That is beyond creepy,” Corken said. “This is chilling. When he walks out of prison, will he be anything else but an ISIS adherent?”
The fear that Gregerson will be able to pick up with ISIS right where he left off as he enters prison is genuine. According to court documents:
“(Gregerson) was a bit more networked than the normal ISIS in America case. He got some level of spiritual sanctioning through (Bengharsa) – an in-person recruiting or radicalization.”
In this case, the FBI contends that even though Gregerson was never formally charged with terrorism, they believe he was “…was plotting violent jihad with a Maryland imam, Suleiman Bengharsa.”
A recent story about this case explained the connection to Bengharsa:
“The FBI has been “nipping at the heels” of Bengharsa but it does not appear that investigators have enough evidence to charge him with a terrorism-related crime, said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.
“It would be out of turn if the FBI wasn’t looking at him,” Hughes said. “Either there is not a public case yet or not enough to build a case.”
When Gregerson was arrested, he had thousands of dollars in weapons, which included two AK-47s, handguns, seven rifles, a shotgun and thousands of rounds of ammunition. These items were bought with money from Bengharsa since Gregerson at the time was working for $9.50 an hour at Target.