By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO -- Asking the court for no mercy and stating that he lives in the shadow of Maj. Nidal Hasan, Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo was sentenced to back-to-back life sentences Friday.
"I am comfortable in the shadow of my brother Nidal Hasan that outdid me in jihad," Abdo told the court. "I do not ask for mercy."
Shackled and wearing a black and white-striped jump suit from the county jail, the Fort Campbell, Ky., soldier represented himself during his sentencing hearing in federal court.
Authorities made him wear a white cloth that encircled his mouth and the bottom half of his head and a black mesh over the top of his head that resembled a hair net.
Judge Walter Smith sentenced Abdo to an additional 60 years on top of the consecutive life sentences. Smith said it would be "unlikely" that Abdo is ever released.
Charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence garnered Abdo life sentences. He earned 60 years total for charges of attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence and possession of a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
A jury convicted Abdo on May 24 of the six charges that stemmed from his thwarted terrorist plot in Killeen.
Abdo, 22, had intended to detonate a homemade bomb he was in the process of building at a hotel on Fort Hood Street. He intended to set off the bomb at a local restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers and shoot any survivors.
Officials said Abdo could have been within hours of carrying out his planned attack at a Chinese restaurant.
On Friday, the Muslim soldier told the court in a soft voice that contrasted the defiance he had shown at earlier hearings that the actions of the U.S. Army, specifically the 101st Airborne, led him on a path of jihad.
"I continue to answer the call of jihad," he said. "I will continue until the day I die."
Before being sentenced, Abdo told the court how Army officials retaliated against him for seeking conscientious objector status. Abdo asserted that a charge of possession of child pornography was a fabrication and only leveled against him in order to prevent him from being discharged from the Army.
Abdo said that charge came just two days after Pentagon officials approved his conscientious objector status.
Before charged, Abdo said he held the justice system and Army in high regard. "I have since seen these fail so completely and deliberately," he said.
Abdo said the child pornography charge has since been dismissed. U.S. Army officials did not return phone calls seeking confirmation Friday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Frazier, the prosecutor in the case, argued for maximum punishment during the hearing, citing Abdo's repeated assaults on jail guards and U.S. Marshals as evidence that he remains a threat.
Frazier said Abdo believed he was infected with HIV on April 20 when he spit a mixture of blood and water onto a jail guard and U.S. Marshal.
"This was a premeditated attempt believing he was going to (infect them)," Frazier said.
He spat blood on a guard less than a week later and scratched another guard. Authorities later determined Abdo did not have HIV.
Following the hearing, several members of federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's office expressed gratitude toward the keen-eyed individuals who alerted police to Abdo.
"It all started with a simple phone call," Killeen Police Chief Dennis Baldwin said. "A citizen can make a big difference."
A tip from Guns Galore employee and retired Killeen police officer Greg Ebert in July 2011 alerted Killeen police to a suspicious individual, but the tips started coming in well before Abdo crossed into Texas.
He initially intended to videotape himself killing an officer at Fort Campbell. Abdo aborted that plan after Fort Campbell became aware of his suspicious behavior at a local gun store.
Another gun store clerk near the Kentucky post notified several different authorities.
And on the way out of town, an employee at a car wash called local police after he spotted suspicious items Abdo had placed in a trash bin.
It wasn't until nearly a month after Abdo went AWOL from Fort Campbell that police detained him. He eluded authorities in Dallas after attempting to recruit two men for the terrorist attack.
Following Ebert's tip, Killeen police Sgt. Eric Bradley learned that Abdo had not only purchased several pounds of gunpowder, but also had bought a Fort Hood uniform from an Army surplus store.
It made him and other officers very uneasy they might have a terrorist on their hands. They interviewed several taxi drivers and traced Abdo to the America's Best Value Inn, a hotel within walking distance of Fort Hood.
Sitting in the lobby of the hotel, Bradley and another officer watched as Abdo walked out the front door, giving them a brief glance.
They took him down within feet of the door, and within minutes Abdo began telling them about his plot to avenge Muslims slain in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ultimately Abdo failed to hurt anyone in his perceived quest for justice under the eyes of Allah.
But he may have been successful in creating an atmosphere of suspicion.
When Baldwin spoke in front of the federal courthouse Friday, he said that the public should not live in fear. "Obviously we should not live in fear, but we should be mindful of our surroundings," he said.
At the same time, Baldwin has ordered members of his department to contact local restaurants and tell staff to create action plans for possible suicide bomber attacks. Baldwin's decision came in preparation of the impending court-martial of the man Abdo referenced multiple times leading up to Friday's sentencing, the accused Fort Hood shooter.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553