A 26-year-old Ashland man was sentenced Thursday morning in federal court to 17 years in prison for planning to crash explosives-laden model airplanes into the Pentagon and US Capitol and rigging cellphones to detonate improvised explosive devices to kill American troops.
Rezwan Ferdaus, who grew up in Massachusetts and has a physics degree from Northeastern University, began planning a holy war against the United States in 2010 after becoming convinced by seeing jihadi websites and videos that America is evil. He later approached a federal informant and met with undercover agents to discuss a plot.
Undercover FBI agents supplied Ferdaus, a US citizen, with money to buy the planes, explosives, three grenades, and six AK-47 assault rifles. He was arrested after he locked the explosives and guns in a Framingham storage facility he had rented. Authorities have said the public was never in danger from the arms.
As Ferdaus walked into the US District Court courtroom in Boston, about a dozen family members and friends stood, waved at him and yelled, “We love you!” His mother, Anamaria, sitting in the front row, repeatedly instructed him to “keep your head up.”
Ferdaus acknowledged his supporters, smiling widely and lifting his cuffed hands to wave back. The courtroom then fell silent, awaiting the entry of Judge Richard Stearns.
In an address to the court, Ferdaus said “no dehumanization can serve as justification for inhumanity in other places,” but he did not specify what he was referring to. He also did not make a direct mention of his Muslim faith or terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists.
Instead, he talked about his mind-set as he faces 17 years behind bars.
“I can dream of a brighter future,’’ Ferdaus said. “God willing, I will acclimate. I am in acceptance of my fate.’’
From the bench, Stearns seemed to have been moved by Ferdaus’s introspective statement, telling him “the statement convinces me you have the character and the capacity to search your own soul.’’
The judge also said he had received numerous letters of support from family and friends of Ferdaus, including a letter from his parents that contained photographs chronicling their son’s life.
Ferdaus was facing a 35-year sentence, but under a plea agreement, federal prosecutors agreed to drop four of six charges and to jointly recommend with the defense a sentence of 17 years.