MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota man admitted Friday that he was threatening U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch when he fired off an angry tweet after federal prosecutors charged six men with conspiring to join the Islamic State group.
As part of a plea agreement, Mahamed Abukar Said pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of impeding a law enforcement officer. He faces a maximum of a year in prison, a maximum fine of $100,000, one year of supervised release and up to five years of probation when he's sentenced Nov. 23.
Said, 20, of Minneapolis, was originally charged in April with two felonies after posting a message on Twitter that said, "ima whack that us attorney general."
Prosecutors concluded he actually meant the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, Andy Luger, who was in the news after his office charged the six alleged Islamic State recruits. Five of them were Said's friends, defense attorney Chris Madel said. One of Said's tweets threatened a "massacre" if they weren't freed.
Said testified that his message was directed against Lynch, not Luger.
"I was frustrated and I was trying to get my anger out," Said testified. "It was not the smartest way to do it."
Two of the six alleged recruits have pleaded guilty. The other four, along with a fifth man who was arrested earlier, face trial in February on terror charges.
The cases have created tension in Minnesota's Somali community, the largest in the U.S., partly because another man who had planned to travel to Syria to join the militants changed his mind and became an informant against the others.
Said, who was a community college student and security guard before his arrest, told U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol he had a B-minus to B-plus average, and wants to go back to school and eventually become a lawyer.
"This is an extraordinary young man," Madel said. "He's an extremely intelligent young man that has done some extremely dumb things."
The case is being handled by federal prosecutors from Wisconsin and Piersol, who's from South Dakota, to avoid any conflict of interest.
Said will remain in jail for now, though Piersol said he's willing to release him to a halfway house if that can be arranged. Madel agreed, saying that Said is currently homeless because he lost his apartment after his arrest.
Other factors that could play into Said's release and sentencing include a criminal record for mostly minor offenses, including failing to make court appearances eight times, the judge said.
Afterward, Madel told reporters that Said is turning his life around. He acknowledged that videos on Said's phone, which the FBI seized, show "a lot of drinking and ... a fair amount of marijuana use," but said his client voluntarily got help for those problems.