CINCINNATI -- A West Chester man who planned a deadly terrorist attack in Cincinnati on behalf of ISIL faced his moment of truth Wednesday.
"Have mercy on me," 21-year-old Munir Abdulkader begged a federal judge before sentencing.
But when he heard the judge say 20 years in prison, the former Xavier University student dropped his head on the table in front of him.
Abdulkader planned to behead a local veteran, film that beheading, send the video to his ISIL recruiter, and then attack a Cincinnati police station with pipe bombs and guns and fight to the death, according to prosecutors.
The 2013 Lakota East High School graduate apologized several times in federal court - specifically to the judge and the veteran that he targeted to kill. His family and friends sent letters to the judge calling him "kind, gentle and respectful."
The defense argued he was a follower, not a leader, and had no criminal record. They asked for a five-year sentence. Other terror suspects have gotten less, Abdulkader's attorney said.
But apologies and letters didn't hold sway with the prosecution in light of what Abdulkader admitted to plotting. The government said Abdulkader initiated a lot of the planning and ideas for the attacks.
United States Attorney Benjamin Glassman noted that this was the largest terrorist plot to target the Tri-State and he said Abdulkader deserved what he got, although Glassman had recommended 25 years.
"Twenty years is a significant sentence that I think does reflect an extremely serious crime," Glassman said.
"iI's simply not the case that only people with criminal records go ahead and commit these types of crimes ... " Glassman said. "If you see someone start to change and go down a path of radicalism..It's important that they say something, tell their family, tell law enforcement."
Abdulkader will remain under supervision for the rest of his life. The judge said Abdulkader will get credit for the 18 months he's already spent behind bars. Once he gets out, he will have to pay to install monitors that will show all of his online activity for the rest of his life. His lawyer told the judge they are still discussing the idea of appealing the sentence.
Read Glassman's full sentencing recommendation below:
Originally Abdulkader had planned an attack overseas. He tried to get a passport in January, 2015 so that he could fly to Syria in May. After arrests in April, he decided it was too dangerous to go. He then started to plot an attack on U.S. soil.
Abdulkader was arrested May 21, 2015 and pleaded guilty March 24, 2016 to aiding a foreign terrorist organization, attempting to murder government employees and possessing a firearm for the purposes of committing a violent crime.
Abdulkader spent months identifying his intended victims and “was very excited for the confrontation," according to a sentencing recommendation filed Nov. 11 by federal prosecutors.
Abdulkader planned to die in the attack, according to the sentencing recommendation.
“Yes with full conviction I’ve made my mind: we will go through with this," Abdulkader wrote days before his arrest, according to court documents. "I’m actually very excited for the confrontation."
The planned attack was the culmination of long-standing support for the Islamic State group, prosecutors said; the sentencing recommendation includes screenshots of tweets expressing this support posted by Abdulkader in 2014 and 2015.
An FBI investigation monitored Abdulkader’s communications closely and arrested him after he purchased a firearm that he intended to use in the attack.