A man who claimed he had been trying to root out terrorists on the Internet was convicted Friday of plotting to help a supposed al-Qaida operative blow up U.S. oil pipelines and refineries.
A federal jury took only 90 minutes to convict Michael C. Reynolds of providing material support to terrorists and other charges.
Reynolds, 49, of Wilkes-Barre, was arrested in December 2005 after authorities said he tried to meet someone he thought was an al-Qaida contact about 25 miles from a motel in Pocatello, Idaho, where he had been staying. The contact turned out to be Shannen Rossmiller, a judge from Conrad, Mont., who was working for the FBI.
Plan was ploy to end Iraq war
Prosecutors said Reynolds wanted to work with al-Qaida to target the Williams natural gas refinery in Opal, Wyo.; the Transcontinental Pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast through Pennsylvania to New York and New Jersey; and a Standard Oil refinery in Perth Amboy, N.J., that no longer exists.
Reynolds thought his plan would help end the war in Iraq because troops would have to be recalled to help guard the nation's energy infrastructure, prosecutors said. He also owed child support and may have been motivated by greed, they said.
At the meeting in Idaho, Reynolds expected to receive $40,000 to finance the plot.
Reynolds testified that he was working as a private citizen to uncover terrorist plots and that his Internet communications were meant to ensnare a person he thought was a terrorist.
Defense attorney Joseph O'Brien said his client was disappointed by the verdict and planned to appeal.
U.S. Attorney Thomas A. Marino, whose office prosecuted Reynolds, said in a statement Friday that the FBI foiled "the diabolical plans of a would-be al-Qaeda sympathizer."
Informant lauds ruling
Rossmiller, who has won national acclaim by using the Internet to lure would-be terrorists, said she was pleased with the verdict. "It's a good day for our country that he was convicted," she said.
Rossmiller, 38, resigned her judgeship last September to join the Montana attorney general's office.
She was monitoring an Internet bulletin board favored by admirers of Osama bin Laden in October 2005 when she ran across Reynolds, who had posted a message soliciting help to "do something" about U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Posing as a terrorist, Rossmiller began corresponding with Reynolds. Eventually, he provided a shopping list of materials for building a land mine.
Reynolds was convicted on two counts of providing material support to terrorists; soliciting a crime of violence; unlawful distribution of explosives; and unlawful possession of a hand grenade. He was acquitted of another count of unlawful possession of a hand grenade.
Each of the terrorism charges carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Marino said Reynolds, who has been jailed since his arrest, will be sentenced in about five months.