A Moroccan national, accused of plotting to attack Harvard University and a federal building with bombs attached to a drone, was sentenced to two years in prison on Wednesday by a federal judge in Connecticut.
U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel had sought a maximum penalty of five years in prison for El Mahdi Semlali Fathi, 27, for a alleged plan to attack the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university and an unnamed federal building.
In April, federal agents arrested Fathi, who was living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after the FBI recorded him boasting about terrorist attacks and training he claimed to have received in Afghanistan.
But defense attorneys convinced U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall that the defendant never really intended to carry out the scheme, and she opted to given him two years.
Fathi earlier pleaded guilty to perjury and immigration charges in connection with a fradulent asylum application. He had falsely claimed he would face persecution if he had to go back to Morocco.
In arguing for a five-year sentence, the prosecutor said: “It is important to send a message with a strong sentence considering the growing concern among our citizens about illegal immigration into this country.”
Fathi will face deportation after completing his sentence. With time already served, he has 15 months in prison remaining.
“My client lied and made a number of bone-headed threats, but never intended to act upon them,” Paul Thomas, Fathi’s public defender, told the judge in New Haven on Wednesday.
“He made a series of ridiculous statements that had no bearing in reality.”