A former psychologist in the Babylon school district testified Tuesday she believes convicted terrorist Justin Kaliebe had Asperger’s syndrome or some related condition on the autism spectrum when he was a student.
Clare Savage, who has retired, testified as a witness for Justin Kaliebe at a pre-sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip about the tests she administered to him and his mother when he was in the 10th grade.
In February 2013, Kaliebe, then 18, who has lived in Babylon and Brentwood, pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists and a foreign terrorist organization by trying unsuccessfully to get to Yemen to join al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Kaliebe’s attorney, Anthony La Pinta of Hauppauge, is attempting to convince U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley his client should get a drastically reduced sentence because of a diminished capacity to make judgments.
La Pinta has suggested his client should be sentenced to 3 years in prison; Eastern District federal prosecutors Michael Canty, John Durham and Seth DuCharme have argued Kaliebe should be sentenced to 24 years.
Kaliebe’s associate in the attempt to aid the al-Qaida branch in Yemen, Marcos Alonso Zea, of Brentwood, was sentenced to 25 years in prison in April 2015.
Prosecutor Canty, in cross-examining Savage, noted doctors who were treating Kaliebe for various illnesses at the same time as she was administering the tests did not indicate he had any condition on the autism spectrum.
At previous pre-sentencing hearings psychologists for Kaliebe and for the government disagreed over whether he had any type of diminished capacity.
To bolster their case, federal prosecutors have introduced audio and video tapes of Kaliebe discussing with an undercover FBI agent his desire to go Yemen and to join the al-Qaida branch, known as Ansar al-Sharia.
At one point in a video, the undercover agent suggests there are peaceful ways for Kaliebe to act on his beliefs, to serve Allah.
Kaliebe replies: “But for me the only way out is shahid [martyrdom]. . . . Allah, the Almighty, prescribed this for me. . . . If the cops were to come right now and force me out of the car and arrest me it would be better for me to go to prison than for me to stay here and live a life, a demeaning life.”
On an audio recording, Kaliebe tells the undercover agent if he is caught he knows he will be charged with “conspiracy to kill, maim and kill in foreign countries.”
At a pre-sentencing hearing in July, a psychologist hired by the government to examine Kaliebe said Kaliebe told him that he made those remarks about committing violent acts because he believed the informant, who he thought was with the al-Qaida affiliate, was testing him.
Hurley set Oct. 7 for Kaliebe’s sentencing.