Published as a Boston.com community blog, April 12, 2012
Tarek Mehanna is no David Stone.
David Stone and members of his Hutaree anti-government militia amassed a huge arsenal of weapons, including the ingredients for explosives, and allegedly plotted to kill a police officer and bomb his funeral. A federal judge in Michigan said they were just venting and exercising their First Amendment rights.
Mehanna, a 29-year-old pharmacist from Sudbury, Massachusetts, emailed friends, downloaded videos, translated and posted documents on the web, and traveled to and from Yemen in 2004.
No evidence was presented in court directly linking him to a terrorist group. He never hatched a plot – indeed, he objected when a friend (who went on to become a government informer and has never been charged with anything) proposed plans to stage violent attacks within the United States. He never had a weapon. He did lie to the FBI. And he has just been sentenced by US District Court Judge George O’Toole to 17.5 years in a supermax prison on various material support to terrorism charges.
Over 220 of Mehanna’s supporters in an overflow room watched on a screen as prosecutor Aloke Chakravarty in his pre-sentencing remarks stressed the “gravity” of Mehanna’s offenses. Over a decade ago, he claimed, “this defendant began to radicalize” and to radicalize others to “visit violence” on Americans. Although he failed in his efforts to find a terrorist training camp when he visited Yemen in 2004, he found his niche, the prosecutor stated, serving as the “media wing” of al Qaeda, translating documents, and sharing videos.
“The impact of the harms created through that work is huge,” Chakravarty asserted. “We don’t know how many have been radicalized…people around the world are consuming his work…The damage he has done will linger.”