Randy Lamar Wilson, 26, pleaded guilty in federal court. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, he could face 15 years in federal prison, contingent on the information he provides about co-conspirators. U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose set an Oct. 18 sentencing date for Wilson.
Wilson was arrested in December at the Atlanta airport while boarding a flight with his family to Mauritania.
The same day, agents arrested 25-year-old Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair, Wilson’s former business partner. Charges against Abukhdair are still pending and his trial is set for August.
Federal prosecutors portrayed Wilson as an Islamic radical who wanted to reunite with Omar Hammami, an American who also grew up in Alabama and became one of the most well-known jihadists in Somalia.
Wilson told DuBose on Friday that he believed the government could prove that he intended to participate in violent jihad overseas.
Federal prosecutors said Wilson intended to “murder, maim and kidnap” people overseas.
U.S. Attorney Christopher Bodnar said the government could prove that Wilson and Abukhdair made extensive plans to travel to a country where they could participate in a religious war. Bodnar said the two men wanted to disguise their reason for traveling as tourism or academic study.
“He knew at all times that he was participating in an illegal conspiracy,” Bodnar said.
Domingo Soto, Wilson’s attorney, said Wilson would provide information about Abukhdair and others as part of the plea agreement.
“He wanted to plead guilty,” Soto said. “As far as I’m concerned, this still has to do with free-speech issue,” said Soto, who has said that Wilson’s statements could have been misconstrued or taken out of context by government agents.
“He is pretty fatalistic about this,” Soto said. He said Wilson believed a jury pool would be tainted by the emotional issues surrounding terrorism.
Wilson was stoic Friday, wearing a beige jail jumpsuit with arm and leg chains and guarded by eight U.S. marshals. He answered only yes and no to DuBose’s questions and said he understood the details of the plea agreement and the consequences of his plea.