NATIONAL NEWS

US judge unseals plea agreement of key defendant in a federal terrorism and kidnapping case

Oct 20, 2023, 11:51 AM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. district judge has unsealed a plea agreement for one of the key defendants in a terrorism and kidnapping case that stemmed from a cross-country search for a missing toddler that ended with a 2018 raid on a squalid compound in northern New Mexico.

The documents were made public Thursday, just days after a jury convicted four other family members in what prosecutors had called a “sick end-of-times scheme.”

Authorities said it was under Jany Leveille’s instruction that the family fled Georgia with the boy, ending up in a remote stretch of the high desert where they conducted firearms and tactical training to prepare for attacks against the government. It was all tied to a belief that the boy would be resurrected as Jesus Christ, and he would then explain which corrupt government and private institutions needed be eliminated.

Leveille pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and being in possession of a firearm while unlawfully in the United States. She never appeared in court during the three-week trial, but prosecutors did present as evidence some of her writings about the family’s plans.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the boy’s father and Leveille’s partner, was convicted of three terrorism-related charges. Wahhaj’s brother-in-law, Lucas Morton, also was convicted of terrorism charges, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and kidnapping that resulted in the boy’s death. Wahhaj’s two sisters — Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj — were convicted only on the kidnapping charges.

In a case that took years to get to trial, jurors heard weeks of testimony from children who had lived with their parents at the compound, other family members, firearms experts, doctors and forensic technicians. The defendants, who are Muslim, argued that federal authorities targeted them because of their religion.

Authorities raided the family’s compound in August 2018, finding 11 hungry children and dismal living conditions without running water. They also found 11 firearms and ammunition that were used at a makeshift shooting range on the property on the outskirts of Amalia near the Colorado state line.

The remains of Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, were found in an underground tunnel at the compound. Testimony during the trial indicated that the boy died just weeks after arriving in New Mexico and that his body was kept for months with Leveille promising the others that he would be resurrected.

An exact cause of death was never determined amid accusations that the boy, who had frequent seizures, had been deprived of crucial medication.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, Leveille faces up to 17 years in prison. The other defendants — who each face up to life in prison for their convictions — will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled.

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US judge unseals plea agreement of key defendant in a federal terrorism and kidnapping case