Idaho’s most senior judge said he was convinced Fazliddin Kurbanov planned to carry out a terrorist attack meant to kill a large number of Americans.
“He intended to carry out jihad on the United States,” Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge said during sentencing Thursday. “He intended to explode a bomb in the U.S. to send a message, much like that delivered in the 911 attacks.”
Kurbanov, 33, who faced 40 years in prison, was ordered to serve 25 years, after which he will be deported back to Uzbekistan.
“I’m not a terrorist. I’ve never been one,” Kurbanov told Lodge through a translator before he was sentenced. “I’ve never caused any harm to anyone. And I have no intent to do that, especially not to Americans.”
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Defense attorney Chuck Peterson said he was disappointed by the sentence, which he argued was harsher than those given to others convicted of creating a bomb or setting one off.
“The judge felt it was a very serious offense. We disagree,” Peterson said.
U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said she was satisfied with the sentence.
“The lengthy term of imprisonment imposed by the court ensures that this defendant, who by his words and acts was intent on taking American lives, does not and will not pose any further threat to the safety and security of our community,” Olson said.
A federal jury in Boise found Kurbanov guilty in August of providing material support to a terrorist group in Uzbekistan and possession of an unregistered destructive device.
Kurbanov has maintained his innocence since he was arrested in early 2013, and his attorneys have appealed his conviction. They also said Thursday they would appeal the sentence.
Lodge, who has served since 1963 on the state and federal benches, chewed out Kurbanov for misbehaving in the Ada County Jail following his conviction. In video footage shown in court, Kurbanov was seen swearing at corrections deputies and spitting on them, on a camera and on the glass portion of a door.
He also threw a book at deputies and forced them to drag him to a holding cell when he wouldn’t voluntarily walk with them. And he threw a urine-soaked paper towel at another inmate.
“I’m somewhat taken back by your conduct during your incarceration,” Lodge said.
The judge said it cost $840,000 for Kurbanov’s lawyers, investigators and other defense costs. He told Kurbanov he was given two excellent attorneys in Chuck and Courtney Peterson and that every effort was made to protect his rights as a refugee.
“We take a person’s rights very seriously. And you were presumed innocent until the jury found you guilty,” Lodge said.
He told Kurbanov he expected better behavior from him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Lucoff sought a sentence of 35 years, while Chuck Peterson asked for no more than 13 years.
Kurbanov came to the United States with his family as refugees in 2009.
While still in Uzbekistan, Kurbanov’s parents and sister left Islam and converted to Christianity. They were persecuted, and a friend who was a government official told them they had been placed on a watch list because of their religious beliefs. So they fled. Kurbanov, still a Muslim, went with them and brought his wife and son.
Kurbanov eventually settled in Boise, where he rented an apartment on South Curtis Road.
He wrote in one of a series of emails and Internet chats that he was disgusted by the sight of Americans burning the Quran. Another time, he wrote that he turned against the U.S. after learning an American soldier had tried to rape a Muslim girl.
Prosecutors alleged Kurbanov planned a terrorist attack that could eclipse the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. Authorities began looking into Kurbanov’s activities after he attracted the attention of the FBI through postings on Facebook and YouTube. He uploaded more than 100 terror videos from the IMU website to the YouTube account.
The defense denied that there was a conspiracy to carry out a bombing of a military base or other targets and denied that Kurbanov committed any crimes.