HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Harrisburg man pleaded guilty to charges related to terrorism. Those charges stem back to 2014 when 20-year-old Jalil Aziz created dozens of Twitter accounts and advocated violence against the United States.
Aziz’s defense attorney, Thomas Thornton, said there was enough evidence to convict Aziz, but he says the maximum sentence, 25 years, is extremely long for someone he claims just wanted to be a better Muslim.
Aziz plead guilty to two different counts related to terrorism after officials say he created 71 Twitter accounts, hid his identity, and leaked information about military members to ISIS between June, 2014 and March, 2015.
Thornton claims the Harrisburg man became infatuated with the group’s ideology after moving to the area and having few friends, leading to isolation at home.
"He became enticed by the ideology of ISIS which is really a claim to be setting up the perfect Islamic state, and any good Muslim is supposed to want to go to the perfect Islamic state,” said Thornton.
Count 1, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to ISIS, has a maximum penalty of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. Count 2, using a communication containing a threat to injure, has a maximum of 5 years and also a $250,000 fine. That’s a maximum of 25 years behind bars and a $500,000 fine for something Thornton says Aziz fell victim to.
"I mean, they call them radicalizers on purpose,” said Thornton. “They try to send out Tweets, Youtube posts, and things like that, that entice young kids to join up.” Thornton cites isolation as a main factor in the terror tweeting.
"He just didn’t have any real friends around here,” he added. “They moved into the area, and he never really made any friends.”
Besides communicating online with ISIS and creating a “kill list,” the FBI found M4 magazines, a knife, a head wrap, and gloves belonging to Aziz during the investigation.
Although Aziz faces up to 25 years in prison, his attorney says they will ask the judge for a significantly lower sentence. Thornton says he is hopeful. Sentencing is scheduled for May 10th.