An East Bay man who’d tried to get recruited by ISIS in 2016, but was dealing with undercover FBI instead, had his sentence reduced from 16 years to seven years, after an appeals court decided that his Twitter threats did not constitute actual terrorism.
A fun San Francisco legal fact is that Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement from the high court yesterday, has a brother who’s a U.S. District Court judge right here in San Francisco. We bring this up because both San Francisco natives are in the news today, for entirely separate reasons; Stephen Breyer for his retirement, and Charles Breyer because the Bay Area News Group reports he reduced a prison sentence from 16 years to seven years for accused Oakland domestic terrorist Amer Sinan Al Haggagi, after an appeals court ruled that Al Haggagi’s threats to kill 10,000 people were merely Twitter trolling that he did not intend to carry out.
The details of Al Haggagi’s case, which we learned in 2017, were that he wanted to join ISIS and start wildfires, sell poisoned cocaine, and blow up gay nightclubs. What he did not realize was that was not working with ISIS, but with undercover FBI agents. As he texted one of them in July 2016, “‘I’m going to place a bomb in a gay club. I’m going to tear up the city. The whole Bay Area is going to be up in flames. My ideas are genius. LMAO.”
It was not Judge Breyer’s desire to reduce the sentence, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the terrorism charge that Breyer sentenced him with in 2019, leaving Breyer no choice but to reduce the sentence. “I would say that everybody got lucky that, one, he engaged with an FBI agent and, two, that he didn’t engage with a second person who could have carried out some of the things that he wanted to do,” Breyer said Wednesday. “That’s luck.”
Al Haggagi’s lawyer, unsurprisingly, thought the reduced sentence was the right call. “What he did here was to talk,” attorney Mary McNamara told NBC Bay Area, “He talked about campaigns of terror, so to speak. They’re atrocious the things that he actually said, but he didn't carry out any of them.”
And Al Haggagi at least sounds penitent. “I just wanted to say that, no matter what I could never forgive myself for the pain and suffering that I’ve caused my family, and that I’ve been beating myself every day for that,” he told the court via phone from prison. “I was obnoxious, reckless, and without direction. I was an unprincipled and undisciplined young boy.”
He’s been in jail since he was arrested in 2017, so the new reduced 81-month sentence could spring him out late next year. And he was only 22 at the time of the crimes, and is now entering his late 20s. So maybe he’s learned something and been humbled.
Or maybe next time when he says he wants to kill 10,000 people, he'll find collaborators who are not undercover FBI agents.
Image: US Attorney's Office