A homegrown terrorist from Everett, who was arrested after his uncle and fellow plotter were killed in a confrontation with police in Roslindale in 2015, had one of his five convictions overturned Wednesday.
The First US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of David Daoud Wright, 30, on a charge of conspiring to support a terrorist organization.
Wright plotted the death of blogger Pamela Geller, a controversial critic of Islam, with his uncle, Usaamah Rahim, and a third man, Nicholas Rovinski of Warwick, R.I., federal prosecutors say.
In June 2015, Rahim, 26, was fatally shot by authorities in a Roslindale parking lot after he advanced on them with a machete. Wright was arrested later that day.
Wright took the stand in his own defense and said he was only engaging in an “ISIS role-play fantasy” because he was obese and had no social life. But he was sentenced to 28 years behind bars and lifetime parole once released. Wright is currently housed in a federal minimum-security prison in Indiana. He remains convicted of conspiring to commit acts of terrorism beyond national boundaries, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and two counts of obstruction of justice.
But the appeals court ruled that his conviction for conspiring to support a terrorist organization must fall because US District Court Judge William G. Young, the trial judge, made a mistake in outlining the meaning of the law to jurors.
The appeals court said the error meant that jurors wrongly convicted Wright of a crime where the evidence was not as “overwhelming” as the law required, creating a constitutional flaw in his trial that could only be corrected by dismissing the conviction.
“We conclude that a rational jury could have found from this evidence that Wright could have been simply ‘role-playing’ with respect to following ISIS’s direction,’’ Justice David J. Barron wrote for the court.
The “constitutional error in the instruction [was not] . . . harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, because the evidence . . . fails to show that there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence that Wright had conspired to kill Geller and others ‘at the direction of’ ISIS,” Barron wrote.
The court sent the case back to the district court for further action.
The US attorney’s office had no comment, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.