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Appeals court affirms US soldier’s life sentence

August 20, 2013

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court has affirmed two life terms against a soldier who planned to detonate a bomb inside a Texas restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers.

Naser Jason Abdo appealed that his arrest was unlawful, that he had been denied access to an expert witness and that he was unfairly charged twice for the same offense. But the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday threw out all Abdo’s claims, saying the August 2012 sentence stands.

Abdo was absent without leave from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when he was arrested with bomb-making materials in 2011. A federal jury convicted him in May 2012 on six charges including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Abdo also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.

He was sentenced last August to two life terms plus additional time.

The appeals court denied Abdo’s request to consider his initial police detention a full arrest instead of just an investigatory stop, which would have made it unlawful and rendered it and statements obtained at the time inadmissible as evidence. It said the officers who detained Abdo knew he had purchased firearm supplies, and that he could have been armed was sufficient reason to hold him at gunpoint, handcuff and put him in the back of a police car.

He asked the court to vacate one of two charges of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, contending he should not have been charged for the possession of the same handgun twice. The court denied the request, saying he had two purposes for the gun — to aid him in his plan to plant the bomb in a restaurant and, as he told police, to shoot the survivors of the blast.

Abdo grew up in Garland, Texas, and enlisted in the military in 2009 thinking the service would not conflict with his religious beliefs. But as his unit neared deployment, the private first class applied for conscientious objector status, writing in a letter accompanying his application that he wasn’t sure “whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically.”

His unit deployed to Afghanistan without him. In a police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack because he didn’t “appreciate what (his) unit did in Afghanistan.”

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