MOBILE, Ala. — A federal judge on Monday denied bond for a Mobile, Ala., native charged with plotting to join violent international jihad.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Nelson said Randy Lamar “Rasheed” Wilson, 25, should remain in jail pending further court proceedings.
Wilson was arrested boarding a flight from Atlanta to Morocco with his wife and two young children earlier this month. Investigators say he planned to enter another African country and wage a violent jihad in support of his Muslim beliefs.
In its complaint against Wilson, the FBI also linked him to fellow Alabama native Omar Hammami, one of the FBI’s most-wanted terror suspects. The FBI says Wilson and Hammami met in 2002 and were roommates for about a year. Hammami later moved to Egypt and joined Islamic insurgents to become a spokesman for the cause.
Wilson’s attorney downplayed the connection between the two men at Monday’s court hearing. Attorney Domingo Soto said Wilson never actually lived with Hammami and that any ideas Wilson may have had about joining an international jihad never developed into concrete plans.
Soto said an FBI informant and an undercover agent encouraged Wilson during many conversations to make statements about Jihad. And the government’s interest in Wilson came largely from his perceived connections to Hammami.
“This is at best blush a bunch of guys talking smack over a long time,” he said. “A lot of this is about free speech under the First Amendment and may even extend to freedom of religion issues.”
Wilson wanted to move his family to a Muslim country so that he could study and practice his religion, and any plans he may have had to travel elsewhere and join an international battle to defend the religion were “hypothetical and amorphous,” Soto said.
But federal prosecutors said Wilson thought he was joining the undercover agent and informant in Africa as part of plan to go to Mali and join other Muslims in violent jihad.
The judge agreed and said she felt Wilson presented a threat to the community if allowed out of custody.
Wilson’s grandmother and other friends and relatives attended Monday’s hearing but refused to comment afterward.
The grandmother, 63-year-old Jeanna Weaver, testified that her grandson had been a devout Muslim for at least the last 10 years. Weaver said she helped raise him, and although he had some problems as a teenager with drugs and alcohol he had not been in trouble in recent years. The married father of two is devoted to his wife, children and religion, Weaver said.
“He just wanted to be a good Muslim and study his religion. When Randy gets something into his head he takes it to heart. I know my grandson is a good person and he would never want to hurt anyone. If anything is going on, I would have known it,” she said.
She said he is a person who follows others, but has never been violent. Weaver said he could not help her put a dog to sleep to because it upset him.
Throughout her testimony, Wilson looked at the ground and did not appear to make eye contact. He had a full beard and was wearing leg, arm and waist chains around his jail jumpsuit.
Wilson’s next court appearance is set for Dec. 27.