My client isn’t a terrorist, he’s a fat idiot, says lawyer of man accused in US ‘beheading plot’

David Wright is accused of conspiring to murder conservative blogger Pamela Geller on behalf of Islamic State

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 September, 2017, 9:11am

A man accused of participating in a plot to behead conservative US blogger Pamela Geller became consumed by Islamic State group propaganda because he was overweight, lonely and desperate for an escape from his bleak life, his defence lawyer said Wednesday.

Federal authorities say David Wright conspired with his uncle and a third man to kill Geller on behalf of the terrorist group because they were upset she organised a Prophet Mohammad cartoon contest in Texas. The plot was never carried out. Wright also wanted to conduct other attacks in the US and encouraged his uncle to kill police officers, officials say.

Wright’s lawyer told jurors during her opening statement he was never really interested in helping Islamic State or committing violence. When Wright was allegedly plotting with the other men, he weighed more than 230kg, lived with his mother and had no career, Jessica Hedges said.

In 2015, David [Wright] felt very, very fat, very failed, and was living in a world of fantastical ideas
Lawyer Jessica Hedges

In the online world of Islamic State, he found the attention he was craving and the ability to pretend he was someone else, she said. He was a “complete idiot,” but he is not guilty, she said.

“In 2015, David felt very, very fat, very failed, and was living in a world of fantastical ideas,” Hedges told jurors at the federal courthouse in Boston. “He hid behind screens, looking for an escape, looking for a distraction from who he really was.”

Wright, 28, is charged with obstruction of justice, conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organisation and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors attempted to portray Wright as the ringleader of the conspiracy, arguing he recruited his uncle Ussamah Rahim, of Boston, and another man, Nicholas Rovinski, of Warwick, Rhode Island, to help him commit attacks.

The three men agreed to kill Geller in the summer of 2015 after the cartoon contest in suburban Dallas, prosecutors say. During the contest, two other men opened fire outside and wounded a security guard before they were killed in a shoot-out with law enforcement assigned to guard the event.

In May of that year, Wright met with Rahim and Rovinski for more than two hours on a secluded Rhode Island beach and discussed plans to kill Geller, according to the indictment.

Days later, Rahim told Wright he couldn’t wait to attack Geller and decided instead to go after “those boys in blue,” referring to police, Assistant US Attorney Stephanie Siegmann told jurors.

Wright, of Everett, encouraged his uncle to attack police and die as a “martyr,” she said. He also instructed Rahim to destroy his cellphone and wipe all the data from his computer, Siegmann said. Hours later, Rahim was approached by officers in a Boston car park and was fatally shot after he pulled out a knife and moved toward them, officials say.

Authorities say Rahim received instructions about the plot to kill Geller from Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State member and hacker who was later killed in an air strike in Syria. Rahim then passed along Hussain’s instructions to Wright, prosecutors say.

Wright wanted to wage other attacks in the US and inflict more damage than was caused by the Boston Marathon bombing because, in his words, “that was not sufficient,” Seigmann said.

Wright told another person online that he was among dozens of Islamic State fighters in the US who were ready to act, Siegmann said. The person Wright was chatting with was secretly working for the FBI and is expected to testify in Wright’s trial.

Rovinski pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy charges and faces between 15 and 22 years in prison.

Rovinski, who has cerebral palsy and walks with a limp, took the stand Wednesday and told jurors that during their meeting on the beach Wright told him Geller “deserved to be beheaded” because she insulted Muhammad.

Wright looked down at a table and showed little emotion while the lawyers spoke.

His lawyer conceded that many of the things Wright read and said are “upsetting.” But Wright never injured anyone and his words alone are not enough to convict him, she said.