US Man Who Bought Guns for Pakistani-origin Couple for San Bernardino Attack Jailed for 20 Years
Shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and wounded 22 when they opened fire at a social services agency in San Bernardino, California. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo)
Enrique Marquez Jr. was sentenced on Friday in a major terrorism case that shook America when radicalised Pakistani-American couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik massacred 14 people and injured 22 others in a shooting rampage.
- Last Updated: October 24, 2020, 15:45 IST
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Los Angeles: A US man has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for conspiring to commit terrorist attacks and providing two powerful assault rifles to a Pakistani-origin couple who carried out a mass shooting in California in 2015 that killed 14 people, according to federal prosecutors. Enrique Marquez Jr., 28, was sentenced on Friday by United States District Judge Jesus Bernal in a major terrorism case that shook America when radicalised Pakistani-American couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik massacred 14 people and injured 22 others in a shooting rampage.
The sentencing concludes a case in which Marquez pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiracy to provided material support and resources to terrorists. In the plea agreement and in open court, Marquez admitted that he conspired with Farook, 29, in 2011 and 2012 to attack Riverside City College (RCC) and traffic on a highway, the Department of Justice said in a press release. Marquez also pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms by serving as the straw buyer of two assault rifles that he provided to Farook. More than three years later, Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik used those rifles in the shooting rampage at the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center (IRC) in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015.
Farook's wife, 29-year-old Malik, pledged allegiance to Islamic State on social media on the day of the shooting, according to US officials. Farook and his wife were killed by law enforcement officers, ending what at the time was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.
Prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum filed last week that Marquez "was a full, willing, and motivated participant" of the conspiracy who not only provided the agreement necessary for the conspiracy to attack RCC and commuters at a highway, but also co-designed the attacks with Farook, purchased the two firearms and ammunition to facilitate the attacks. Marquez also researched bomb making and obtained explosive powder and other bomb-making materials, and visited RCC and SR-91 to sketch out how he and Farook would attack the two locations to maximise casualties, the justice department press release said.
"This defendant was an active member of a conspiracy that planned to inflict death and destruction on innocent people, said First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy Wilkison. The sentence is the direct result of actions that enabled a terrorist and laid the foundation for an attack that took 14 innocent lives, wounded 22 others, and shook the entire nation, Wilkison said in a statement. "admissions, this defendant collaborated with and purchased weapons for a man he definitively knew held radical and anti-American beliefs and who wanted to kill innocent people, she said. Marquez, also pleaded guilty to making false statements in connection with the acquisition of the semiautomatic rifles by serving as the "straw buyer," the US attorney's office said.
Authorities said Marquez and Farook knew each other for about a decade. In 2015, investigators said that by 2011, Farook and Marquez were spending most of their time at Farook's home, reading, listening to lectures and watching videos "involving radical Islamic content." Marques also told investigators their contact began to decline, beginning in 2012. "He had contact with Farook until as late as October of 2015," Assistant US Attorney Christopher Grigg told reporters on Friday. "We don't know the full extent of their relationship," CNN quoted Grigg as saying.
He bought the assault rifles in 2011 and 2012, according to the US attorney's office. A day after the Farook and Malik went on their shooting spree, Marquez called 911 and told the operator that Farook was behind the San Bernardino attack, according to court documents.
Marquez was arrested about two weeks after the IRC terrorist attack and has remained in custody ever since his first court appearance on December 17, 2015. While imposing the sentence, Judge Bernal denied Marquez's request for a five-year sentence, which essentially would have been a time-served sentence that soon would have resulted in his release from custody. In another case stemming from the investigation, the mother of Syed Rizwan Farook pleaded guilty in March to a federal criminal charge of intending to impede the federal criminal investigation by shredding a map her son made in connection with the attack. Rafia Sultana Shareef, 67, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Bernal on November 16.