LOS ANGELES -- A California man who used Facebook and other Internet communications to connect with al Qaeda and planned to train its fighters in Pakistan was sentenced Monday to 13 years in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 25, of Garden Grove, pleaded guilty in December to one count of attempting to assist a known terrorist organization.
"I simply do not understand how we can rehabilitate his commitment to die for his beliefs," U.S. District Court Judge John F. Walter commented while discussing what potential threat Nguyen might pose after his release.
Nguyen shook his head no when the judge asked if he would like to make any remarks. Nguyen sat through the proceedings with his hands shackled at the waist, twiddling his thumbs.
In a lengthy argument, defense counsel Yasmin Cader said that while in custody Nguyen was diagnosed with a personality disorder "on the spectrum of schizophrenia" and now that it's being treated, "all of this magical thinking has stopped."
The public defender also said there was very little expertise Nguyen could offer to a terrorist organization.
"He is not a skilled tactician," she said.
Between August and October 2013, Nguyen met several times with a man he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter but who was actually working for the FBI, according to court documents. Nguyen told the phony recruiter he was born to wage jihad and he agreed to travel to Pakistan via Mexico in order to train 30 al Qaeda fighters.
Nguyen was arrested at a Santa Ana bus terminal in October while waiting for a bus bound for Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Nguyen had a passport with a false name, along with a hard drive containing 180 weapons training videos, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Nguyen's admission was outlined in a plea agreement filed in federal court.
Nguyen, who also went by the name Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum, said he had traveled to Syria and for five months fought with rebel forces opposing the regime of Bashar al-Assad. While in Syria, Nguyen offered his services to al Qaeda but was turned down, according to federal prosecutors.