No additional prison time for Minnesota ISIS recruit Abdullahi Yusuf

Abdullahi Yusuf, the first of 9 ISIS recruits from Minnesota facing sentencing this week, will walk out of court a free man Monday. Yusuf has been in custody for 22 months. Federal prosecutors asked Judge Michael Davis to impose a sentence of 42 months total -- 15 additional months – but Judge Davis decided on time served, plus 20 years of supervised release.

The judge worried about the U.S. prison system, which has no programs in place to rehabilitate Yusuf.
“I think we’ll miss the opportunity to help this young kid,” Judge Davis said.

Judge Davis grew emotional as he prepared to hand down his sentence to Yusuf, telling the court, “This is so difficult.” Just before sentencing, Davis said, “I’m going to take that chance. I’m going to take that chance.”

Yusuf, 20, will be placed in a halfway house, where he must remain for up to one year with electronic monitoring. Monday morning, Yusuf took the stand to apologize.

“I no longer believe in that ideology nor would I ever consider it again,” Yusuf said. “The only reason I’m alive today is because I was stopped at the airport.”

Statement from U.S. Attorney Andy Luger

"The hard work of rehabilitating those who seek to engage in ideological violence must continue. Judge Davis recognized that fact today with a sentence for Abdullahi Yusuf that allows him to continue his rehabilitation. The United States thanks Mr. Yusuf for his cooperation.”

The arrest

On May 28th, 2014, Yusuf was stopped at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport trying to board a flight to Turkey. Yusuf pleaded guilty in Feb. 2015 to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. In May 2016, he became one of the star witnesses in the federal trial exploring the recruitment efforts of ISIS in Minnesota. 

Letters of support

Ahead of the sentencings, 13 letters were sent to Judge Michael Davis in the case of defendant Abdirahman Yasin Daud, including a letter from state Rep. Ilhan Omar, who on Election Night became with first elected Somali-American lawmaker in the nation.

Rep. Omar asked Judge Davis for “compassion” and a “restorative approach to justice,” concluding that “this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.” Read a complete copy of Rep. Omar’s letter.

Daud was one of two young men from the Twin Cities arrested in San Diego in April 2015 in an alleged plot to buy fake passports for travel to Syria. Federal prosecutors requested 30 years in prison for Daud, with a lifetime of supervised release.

The defense has pushed Judge Davis for lighter sentences, saying the young, immigrant men were caught between two worlds – the United States and pride in their Somali heritage. The defense argued the young men were lured by propaganda on the internet that suggested that a “true Muslim” should be in Syria saving other Muslims who are being killed and trying to restore the Caliphate.

But responses filed by federal prosecutors last Thursday show the feds are holding firm on their request for tough sentences. In this case of defendant Guled Omar, prosecutors said the young man attempted to “make light of what is an extraordinarily dangerous conspiracy. Far from comedians engaged in slapstick comedy in black and white film, ISIL’s members engage in wholesale murder, rape, and cultural annihilation. But unlike the Three Stooges referenced by counsel for Omar, ISIL films in full color.”

Sentencing breakdown

The 9 defendants are facing a wide range of sentences. The 3 men who were convicted of trying to join ISIS could get between 30 or 40 years in prison. Four others who pled guilty are facing a recommended sentence of 15 years in prison. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is suggesting about 4 years in prison for the two men who cooperated with prosecutors.

Sentencing hearings have been set for Nov. 14, Nov. 15 and Nov. 16. The following is a list of recommendations, pertaining to each defendant:

Mohamed Abdihamid Farah: Prosecution requested 30 years in prison and lifetime of supervised release.

Abdirahman Yasin Daud:  Prosecution requested 30 years in prison, lifetime of supervised release.

Guled Omar:  Prosecutors requested 40 years in prison. Defense requested 15 years.

Hanad Mustafe Musse:  Prosecution requested 15 years imprisonment, and lifetime of supervised release.  Defense requested 72 months. 

Adnan Abdihamid Farah: Prosecution requested 15 years imprisonment and lifetime of supervised release.

Hamza Naj Ahmed:  Prosecution requested 15 years of imprisonment and lifetime of supervised release. Defense requested half-way house, also has motion to seal sentencing report.

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman:  Prosecution requested 15 years prison and lifetime of supervised release. Judge sentenced Abdurahmanto 10 years in prison, plus 20 years of supervised release.

Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame:  A cooperating defendant, prosecutors recommended 54 months in prison. Judge sentenced Warsame to 30 months in prison, plus 20 years of supervised release.

Abdullahi Mohamed Yusuf:  A cooperating defendant, prosecutors recommended 42 months in prison. Judge sentenced Yusuf to time served, plus 20 years of supervised release.