Staten Island man convicted of lying to feds about jihad plans wants to get out of prison to avoid coronavirus
Abdel Hameed Shehadeh
A Staten Island man convicted of lying to the feds about his plans to engage in violent jihad abroad wants to get out of his Pennsylvania prison to avoid getting sick from coronavirus — but prosecutors say he’s not worthy of early release.
Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, 30, wrote to a Brooklyn federal judge in late April that he was a changed man who feared he might die from the disease.
“I was a naive, gullible 18-year-old at the time of my indicted actions,” he wrote in a handwritten application. “Arrested at 20 years young, I am now 30 years old — 45 weeks away from potential release and COVID-19 is proving to be a dangerous and potentially fatal obstacle.”
But federal prosecutors noted Friday that only six inmates at Federal Correctional Institution, McKean in Lewis Run, Pa. had tested positive for COVID-19, and that none of those cases were currently “active."
They also argued that Shehaded’s pulmonary embolism did not put him at higher risk if he were to contract the virus.
Shehaded flew to Pakistan in 2008, hoping to join al Qaeda or the Taliban. But when he denied entry, he told FBI investigators he was simply heading there to study at an Islamic school and attend a friend’s wedding, authorities said.
Weeks later, Shehadeh tried to join the U.S. Army so he could be deployed to Iraq, “secretly intending to kill American soldiers once he was deployed,” federal prosecutors said. His application was denied after the military found he had concealed his previous trip to Pakistan.
After more than a year of surveillance, he was finally busted in Hawaii in 2010 for making false statements to federal agents, and was convicted three years later.
Authorities became aware of Shehadeh through his website, where he reposted videos and images produced by al Qaeda and the Taliban, including videos of Osama bin Laden.