Former Police Officer Argues FBI Pushed Him To Support Terrorism
A police officer on trial this week claims that he was pushed into trying to help the Islamic State by federal agents pretending to be his friend.
Prosecutors say that Nicholas Young is a dangerous believer in not just radical Islam but neo-Nazism.
Young, a 37-year-old Alexandria, Va., native who until his arrest last year worked for the D.C. Metro Transit Police, is on trial this week in Alexandria federal court on charges of attempted support for terrorism and obstruction of justice.
“Nicholas Young was a police officer, sworn to uphold the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in his opening statement Monday, but instead helped a man he believed was trying to join the Islamic State. “Young didn’t arrest [his friend], he didn’t report him, but he said, ‘Let me give you some advice.’ ”
Young, the prosecutor said, believed in an alliance between white supremacists and Muslim extremists against Jewish people: “Young’s hatred of Jews was quite extraordinary.”
Defense attorney Linda Moreno responded that prosecutors are focusing on anti-Semitism to distract from the way FBI agents entrapped Young into committing a crime.
“Nothing in this case is what it seems like on the surface,” she promised jurors in her opening statement.
Young is the first police officer in the country to be arrested on terrorism charges, and the rare terrorism defendant to challenge those charges rather than plead guilty. He hopes to also be the first person since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to win at trial by arguing he was entrapped by law enforcement.
He is accused of buying gift cards so Islamic State recruits could purchase encrypted messaging applications and lying about a friend’s travel to Syria to join the group.
Moreno argued that there was no crime except one invented by the FBI and pushed on Young during a two-year-long sting operation that followed four years of surveillance.
“The FBI induced Nicholas Young, a police officer who had served with distinction, to commit a crime where none existed,” Moreno said in her opening statement. “A six year investment . . . and what they have to show for it are gift cards. That’s why they’re talking about Hitler.”
A man identified as “Mohammed” was paid $40,000 to befriend Young over six months in 2014, Moreno said, and then pretend to join the Islamic State in Syria. Young then corresponded with two FBI agents posing as Mohammed for the next year and a half.
They kept urging him to offer support, she said, telling him children were being bombed.
Two weeks before Young’s arrest last summer, according to Moreno, FBI agents wrote that they “hit the case with a defibrillator,” saying “let’s hope he goes one step further” and breaks the law.
Kromberg told jurors they “won’t see any evidence of government overreaching here.”
Young was predisposed to support terrorism, he said, as evidenced by his collection of radical literature and the comments he made to undercover operatives. Young twice fought “in the jihad” with rebels in Libya, Kromberg said.
Moreover, Kromberg emphasized, Young was for years “attracted to terrorists of a different variety — Nazis.”
Young participated in reenactments as an SS officer — “one of the most vicious terrorist groups that ever existed,” Kromberg said. He said jurors would see a picture of the SS tattoo on Young’s arm, showing that the police officer didn’t just dress up as a Nazi — “he saw himself as that.” Kromberg also told the jury that Young had a framed photograph of Hitler at his house and used an Israeli flag as a doormat.
Moreno said Young is no neo-Nazi but a libertarian with an interest in politics who was committed to his job in law enforcement and his country. His fighting in Libya was legal and against a dictator, she added.
While sidestepping his incendiary comments and interests by saying Young is “not on trial for being an anti-Semite,” Moreno emphasized that the defendant repeatedly spoke against terrorism and the Islamic State.
Online, she said, Young wrote, “I don’t support extremism, I do not support ISIS,” using another term for the Islamic State. He once described the group as “a bunch of criminals hungry for power and money.”
She said he told Mohammed, “You can be a good Muslim and a good cop.”
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