An Everett man who is awaiting trial next month on federal terrorism charges asked a fellow prisoner to help him “neutralize” his codefendant and a key government witness, prosecutors said Tuesday in a legal filing.
David Daoud Wright, 27, allegedly sought the help of a fellow detainee at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.
Authorities did not say what exactly Wright meant when he said he wanted to neutralize defendant Nicholas Alexander Rovinski, 26, of Warwick, R.I., and the unnamed informant.
But Wright had previously told the informant that “he would ‘behead’ anyone who betrayed him by providing information to law enforcement,” prosecutors said in a motion filed in US District Court. The government made the claims in an effort to have the courtroom closed when the informant testifies.
Wright, who is charged with plotting to assist the Islamic State terror group, asked a fellow prisoner for help over the last several months, according to the filing.
The motion includes an affidavit from FBI Supervisory Special Agent Katherine P. Kelley, who interviewed Wright’s fellow prisoner in May with another agent and a federal prosecutor.
“During this interview, the prison detainee told us, among other things, that Wright had repeatedly expressed concern about the anticipated testimony of Rovinski . . . and the [informant],” Kelley wrote. “And Wright sought the prison detainee’s assistance in locating the [informant]. Additionally, Wright told the prison detainee that neither ‘Nick’ nor his family was safe.”
Jessica Hedges, a lawyer for Wright, said in an e-mail that prosecutors are trying to protect the identity of a paid informant, and that closing courtrooms is unconstitutional except in very limited circumstances.
“This is not one of them,” Hedges wrote. “Moreover, it is important to reserve judgment regarding Mr. Wright’s alleged threats, until people have had an opportunity to consider the motivations of the individuals making the accusations. We aren’t permitted to discuss details at this stage, however, the details will be revealed at trial.”
Prosecutors are asking Judge William G. Young to close the courtroom when the informant testifies to everyone but essential court personnel, the jury, Wright, his immediate family, his lawyers, and the prosecution team. The public would be able to view the proceedings on a video feed in another courtroom, with the informant’s face and biographical information shielded.
The government also presented a second option in the motion, in which the public could remain in the courtroom but would be barred from bringing in cellphones or other digital devices that can shoot video.
Sketch materials would also be prohibited, and the informant, when asked on the stand for any biographical data, would be permitted to write his answers on paper, instead of responding orally.
The general public is always barred from bringing cellphones into the federal courthouse, but credentialed journalists are normally allowed to carry cellphones in the courtroom.
Wright is accused of plotting to kill people in the United States on behalf of the Islamic State. He was charged after his uncle, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, was fatally shot in a Roslindale parking lot by an FBI agent in June 2015. Authorities said the shooting occurred after Rahim, 26, attacked police with a military knife.
Law enforcement officials had confronted Rahim to question him about an alleged plot to kill police, according to authorities. Rahim had allegedly discussed that plan with Wright and Rovinski, as well as a plan to behead anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller.
Rovinski has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to support the Islamic State and committing acts of terrorism. Under a plea agreement, he will serve 15 to 22 years in prison. He will be sentenced after Wright’s trial. Jury selection is slated to begin Sept. 13.
During a hearing in Wright’s case last month, prosecutors asked Young to keep the informant’s identity secret and said Wright had threatened the witness. The informant will “testify to critical evidence in the case,” Assistant US Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann told Young during the July hearing.
Court records allege that during an online chat in May 2015, Wright spoke in grisly terms with the informant about the fate that would befall anyone who dimed him out.
“If I learned of a Muslim betraying me . . . I would personally remove his head from his body,” Wright said in the chat, according to Tuesday’s filing. “And if not his head then he will be executed by heavy gun fire in his home, school, work, public, private ANYWHERE he is at.”Maria Cramer of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.