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R.I. man pleads guilty to ISIS conspiracy

A Rhode Island man will serve at least 15 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to conspiring to support the terrorism organization ISIS, according to a plea agreement outlined in federal court in Boston.

Nicholas Alexander Rovinski, 25, of Warwick, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to support ISIS and to committing acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, under an agreement he serve 15 to 22 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He had faced life in prison.

US District Judge William G. Young set a sentencing hearing for March 23. Rovinski has been held without bail since his arrest in June 2015.


Asked why he was pleading guilty, Rovinski told the judge, “I feel in the interest of myself and the people of the United States I should pay for my crimes.”

His lawyer, William Fick, later told reporters that “Nicholas Rovinski is a vulnerable young man who was seduced by extremist ideology. It’s important to note he never actually hurt anybody, never came close to carrying out the outlandish plans that were discussed, but he has accepted personal responsibility for the conspiracy crimes that were charged here and will face very harsh penalties for that.”

Lawyers in the case would not say whether the plea
agreement will require Rovinski to testify against a codefendant, David Wright, 26, of Everett.

A third man who allegedly conspired with them was shot and killed when he was confronted by police in a Roslindale parking lot in June 2015, and allegedly lunged at officers with a knife.

The man, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26, who was Wright’s uncle, allegedly told Wright that he wanted to attack police officers. The encounter happened when investigators attempted to question him. Rovinski and Wright were arrested after that event.

Authorities said the three men conspired to support ISIS and communicated with ISIS supporters overseas, and that they tried to recruit other members of a “martyrdom operations cell” that could carry out attacks in the United States.


Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Siegmann told the judge that Rovinski met Wright on Facebook in November 2014, and they soon began discussing their “mutual support for [ISIS].”

She said Rovinski began downloading the terrorist group’s propaganda on the Internet, including its online magazine, an instruction manual on how to travel to Syria, and videos of beheadings.

Wright seemed to be a leader who introduced his uncle and Rovinski to items he found online, the prosecutor said. “But for Wright, Rahim might not have done the acts he committed in June 2015” leading to the police encounter, Siegmann said.

She also said Wright and Rahim communicated with ISIS leaders overseas, including Junaid Hussain, an English-speaking ISIS propagandist killed in an airstrike in Syria in August 2015.

Siegmann said Rovinski was a willing player in the plot to kill anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller.

She said the three men met on a Rhode Island beach in spring 2015 to discuss the plan.

“All three men planned to kill Ms. Geller, and each of them were planning to play a key role in the beheading,” Siegmann said.

Geller recently wrote on the Breitbart news website that Rovinski and Wright should be charged as enemy combatants.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.