March 31, 2008 2:26 PM
CAMDEN, New Jersey-A man who admitted letting a group of accused terror-plotters shoot his guns at a firing range was sentenced to 20 months in prison on Monday.
Judge Robert Kugler said Agron Abdullahu, who is originally from Kosovo, deserved more than the 10 to 16 months that sentencing guidelines call for because he knew the men who were talking about violence against Americans.
"I am convinced that he is not as innocent as he'd like us to believe," Kugler said before handing down his sentence. "This is not a common, ordinary, technical violation of the law."
However, the sentence was less than half the five-year maximum allowed.
With time served and credit for good behavior, it's likely he will be free before the end of the year, though he could face deportation.
Abdullahu said he was sorry that he let his friends use his weapons at a firing range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania on trips there in 2006 and 2007, and said he discounted their tough talk about hurting America. "Not at any moment did I think they were actually going to do what they said," he told the judge.
Abdullahu, 25, was arrested last May along with five men who are charged with conspiring to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
Authorities said the other men, all of them, like Abdullahu, foreign-born Muslims in their 20s, were planning to sneak onto Fort Dix and attack soldiers there. No attack occurred at the New Jersey base, which is used mainly to train reservists heading to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The group was dubbed "The Fort Dix Six," and Abdullahu, a supermarket baker whose ethnic Albanian family escaped Kosovo when he was a teenager, was charged with letting brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka shoot two weapons that he owned legally. It is a crime to allow illegal immigrants like the Duka brothers to possess guns.
Deputy United States Attorney William Fitzpatrick said no grand jury was ever asked to consider charging Abdullahu with conspiring with the others to kill soldiers.
A secret recording made by a government informant captured Abdullahu saying it would be "crazy" to attack soldiers and urged some of the other men to think about their families.
Kugler said his sentence was harsher than it could have been partly because of drawings found etched into the door of Abdullahu's cell at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia. One had a gun pointed at the words, "FBI."
While the judge was disturbed by that behavior, as well as Abdullahu's interest in making bombs, he seemed to struggle with finding an appropriate sentence.
"There's too much good in this man," Kugler said, to give him the maximum sentence the government sought.
Abdullahu's public defender, Richard Coughlin, said his client was grateful the judge considered his good traits along with his mistakes.