WACO, Texas — Naser Jason Abdo sat alone in court with his hands shackled and a white cloth secured over his mouth and neck. The soldier who went AWOL and plotted to kill other troops outside a Texas Army post remained defiant Friday as he was sentenced to life in prison, not asking for mercy and vowing to never end what he considers his holy war.
"I will continue until the day the dead are called to account for their deeds," Abdo said in a low, gravelly voice through the cloth mask.
A federal judge sentenced Abdo, 22, to two life terms plus additional time. The federal prison system offers no chance of parole. He was convicted of planning what he claimed would have been a massive attack on a Texas restaurant filled with troops from Fort Hood.
In court, Abdo referred to Maj. Nidal Hasan – the Army psychiatrist soon to be tried in a deadly shooting rampage at that Army post – as "my brother." He said he lived in Hasan's shadow despite "efforts to outdo him."
Abdo became a Muslim at age 17.
Outside court, prosecutor Mark Frazier said Abdo had come close to carrying out the attack. U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman compared the plot to recent mass shootings at a movie theatre near Denver and a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.
"In the wake of the tragic events in Colorado and Wisconsin, this is yet another reminder that there are those among us who would use or plan to use violence to advance their twisted agenda," Pitman said.
Arguing for a life sentence, Frazier had said Abdo still presented a threat. Abdo's mouth was covered in court, Frazier said, because he had earlier spat his own blood at agents believing he was infected with HIV. That belief turned out to be wrong.
"He felt it was his duty to take lives, even after incarceration," Frazier told the court.
Abdo was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was arrested with bomb-making materials last summer at a Fort Hood-area motel. A federal jury convicted him in May on six charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Abdo also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
Representing himself, Abdo told the court how his effort to become a conscientious objector led him to Fort Hood.
He grew up in Garland, Texas, and enlisted in the military in 2009 thinking the service would not conflict with his religious beliefs. But as his unit neared deployment, the private first class applied for conscientious objector status, writing in a letter that accompanied his application that he wasn't sure "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."
Abdo's unit was deployed to Afghanistan without him. He said he would refuse to go even if it resulted in a military charge against him.
But his conscientious objector status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography in May 2011. Abdo told the court he felt the pornography accusation was made only because he had tried to leave the Army.
"I just can't imagine a worse stigma being placed on a person," he said of that charge.
A month later, after his efforts to reach out to the media had failed, Abdo said he decided he "was going to go on jihad." Then, over the Fourth of July weekend, Abdo went AWOL.
In a police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack because he didn't "appreciate what (his) unit did in Afghanistan." His plan, he told authorities, was to place a bomb in a busy restaurant filled with soldiers, wait outside and shoot anyone who survived – and become a martyr after police killed him.
According to testimony, Abdo told an investigator he didn't plan an attack inside Fort Hood because he didn't believe he would be able to get past security at the gates.
Abdo said Friday he would not ask U.S. District Judge Walter Smith for a lighter sentence. Most of the prison time he received was mandatory under the charges for which he was convicted.
"I do not ask the court to give me mercy, for Allah is the one that gives me mercy," he said.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the Fort Hood shootings. His court-martial is slated for later this month.
Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant contributed to this report.
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.