CAMDEN, N.J. — A man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to provide weapons to a group of men accused of plotting an attack on soldiers at Fort Dix.
Agron Abdullahu, 25, faces up to five years in federal prison when he is sentenced Feb. 6.
Federal prosecutors have portrayed the New Jersey resident as having the smallest role among the six men arrested in May in the case. The others are charged with conspiring to kill military personnel — a crime punishable by life in prison.
Abdullahu, a former supermarket baker, admitted letting illegal immigrants use his legally owned Beret 9 mm pistol and a Yugoslav-made semiautomatic rifle. Abdullahu told a judge that he knew it was illegal for the others to possess weapons but did not know it was against the law for them to use guns at a firing range.
The alleged plot to kill U.S. troops was not mentioned during Wednesday’s hearing. His public defender, Richard Coughlin, said afterward that Abdullahu made no deal to cooperate with prosecutors against the other defendants.
Abdullahu will not testify against them because he has no information about and was not involved in any terror plot, Coughlin said.
'Used' by others, lawyer says
“My client was essentially used by these other individuals,” Coughlin said. “It was never a ‘Fort Dix Six.’ It was a ‘Fort Dix Five’ plus one other person. That was my client.”
Federal prosecutors declined to comment on Abdullahu’s plea Wednesday.
Abdullahu was indicted on charges of providing weapons to illegal immigrants, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit that crime, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
Authorities have said that while Abdullahu provided the weapons to the other men in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains during trips in January 2006 and February 2007, he resisted the idea of participating in an attack.
The government has said that he told the others at one point that it would be against Islam to kill civilians and that it would be “crazy” to attack the military installation.
Coughlin said he had not heard that part of the tape, which was made by a government informant, and that his client may not have thought the others were serious about launching an attack.
The lawyer said Abdullahu will likely receive a sentence between two and three years. After that, he could face deportation, but it is not clear where he would go.
Abdullahu, an ethnic Albanian born in the Serbian province of Kosovo, fled with his family and was granted asylum in the United States eight years ago. Since his arrest, he has been held in isolation at a federal detention center in Philadelphia.
Authorities said the men charged in the plot scouted out East Coast military installations to find one to attack but settled on Fort Dix largely because one of them knew his way around from delivering pizzas to the base for his father’s restaurant.
The installation, which is being used largely to train reservists bound for Iraq, was not attacked.
The suspects, all in their 20s, were born overseas but have spent many years living in Philadelphia suburbs in southern New Jersey. Brothers Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka; Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer; and Serdar Tatar have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go on trial in January.
The FBI was tipped off when a shopkeeper alerted agents about a video he had been asked to copy onto a DVD, according to court documents. The video showed men “shooting assault weapons at a firing range ... while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great),” the complaint said.
Rocco Cipparone, the lawyer for Shnewer, said Wednesday that Abdullahu’s guilty plea won’t affect the rest of the case.
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