A Bangladeshi man who wanted to join al-Qaida was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday for plotting to set off a 1,000-pound bomb outside the Federal Reserve building in lower Manhattan last fall.
U.S. District Judge Carol Amon in Brooklyn said she believes Quazi Mohammed Nafis, 22, has shown remorse for planning a potentially horrific explosion.
But Amon brushed aside a request by Nafis' lawyers to show leniency by imposing a sentence below federal guidelines calling for 30 years to life.
"I am persuaded that this defendant was a serious threat to the safety of New Yorkers," said Amon, who lauded the FBI and NYPD for getting to Nafis in time to thwart the financial district terror scheme.
Investigators were tipped off to Nafis' jihadist aims early in his plotting and made sure the materials he used to make the fertilizer bomb were inert and never posed a threat.
Motivated by a desire to do "something very big," Nafis said he wanted shake up the United States so that Muslims would be "one step closer to run the whole world," according to a taped conversation he had with a government informant.
Shortly before the sentence was imposed, Nafis, who entered the United States in January 2012 on a student visa, apologized and said he felt ashamed of his actions and radical Islamic views. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to attempting to obtain a weapon of mass destruction.
"I am ashamed, I'm lost; I tried to do a terrible thing," he said. "I apologize to you, your honor. I apologize to the people of America. I apologize to the people of New York City."
Defense attorney Heidi Cesare said Nafis had been beaten and disciplined so much by his parents that he developed a stammer as a child. As an impressionable young man, he fell under the sway of radicalized Muslim students, she said.
In a letter to Amon, Nafis, a banker's son, said his terror scheme was driven by suicidal depression after learning that his Bangladeshi girlfriend was cheating on him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Loonam said Friday that Nafis knowingly set out to bomb the city and repeatedly used a cellphone to try to detonate the dummy truck bomb on Oct. 17, 2012.
The prosecutor played a surveillance video in court that showed Nafis on Aug. 9, 2012, scouting an area outside the New York Stock Exchange that was packed with children and other pedestrians.
Loonam said Nafis at first wanted to bomb the exchange but changed his target to the Federal Reserve.
Loonam said Nafis actively worked to join al-Qaida and espoused jihadist rhetoric to FBI informants.
"Nafis came to the United States radicalized and bent on fighting jihad here in our homeland," said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
"He sought to commit mass murder in downtown Manhattan in the name of al-Qaida," she said in a release. "The prospect of widespread death and destruction could not dissuade him from his deadly plan. Nafis' goals of martyrdom and carnage were thwarted by the vigilance of law enforcement."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the sentence "appropriately recognized the terrorist threat to New Yorkers, and what society has in store for others who would plot to return to kill more of us."