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A man jailed in Ohio on terrorism-related charges tried to orchestrate the murder of the judge overseeing his case, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
A Toledo grand jury indicted Yahya Farooq Mohammad, 37, on three charges relating to the intercepted plot to hire someone to kill U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary, who is overseeing the terrorism case against him, prosecutors said.
Mohammad, of the United Arab Emirates, was one of four people arrested in 2015 and charged with plotting to travel to Yemen and provide thousands of dollars to former al Qaeda propagandist Anwar Al-Awlaki years earlier.
Mohammad allegedly told an inmate at the Lucas County Corrections Center in March that he wanted to hire someone to kill the judge, and that inmate went to the FBI, who got them in touch with an undercover FBI employee.
Mohammad offered $15,000 to the undercover employee to kill Zouhary, and he allegedly said, "The sooner would be good, you know."
"According to the charges in the indictment, this defendant not only attempted to have a federal judge murdered, but he did so to obstruct justice in a terrorism case against him," Barbara L. McQuade, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said in a statement.
"This prosecution seeks to hold the defendant accountable for attempting to victimize the judge and for trying to undermine our criminal justice system," McQuade said.
Mohammad's attorney, Tom Durkin, criticized the prosecutor's comments as inappropriate and said he and his client will fight the charges.
"We intend to vigorously contest these highly orchestrated and preposterous charges in court, rather than in the media, as Ms. McQuade has so prejudicially chosen," Durkin said.
"In doing so, we are quite confident that the public will soon come to learn that any undermining of our criminal justice system and the rule of law lies instead at the feet of the government and its informants," he said.
Mohammad allegedly arranged for the money to be paid through his wife in Chicago, according to the indictment. She gave the undercover employee an envelope containing a $1,000 cash down payment in April, according to the indictment.
The undercover employee on May 16 showed the wife a photo of what was purported to be the judge's dead body and informed her that "the photograph was the matter that he was to conduct for her husband," the indictment reads.
She allegedly told the undercover agent that she would have to contact her husband and then would contact the undercover employee, according to the indictment. Mohammad's wife was named only by her initials in the indictment. She has not been charged.
Mohammad was indicted Wednesday on charges of attempted first-degree murder of a federal officer, solicitation to commit a crime of violence and use of interstate commerce facilities in commission of murder for hire, the Justice Department said. The charges carry a maximum of 30 years in prison combined.