By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona man was sentenced on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for conspiring to support the Islamic State for his role in planning a May 2015 shooting in Texas.
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 45, also was placed on lifetime supervised release during a hearing in federal court in Phoenix for his role in the May 3, 2015 Islamic State-inspired attack at a cartoon exhibit in Garland, Texas, featuring images of the Prophet Mohammed.
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Two co-conspirators, Kareem's former roommates, were killed at the event in a shootout with police.
Kareem, a moving company owner, was convicted in March 2016 on all five terror-related charges by a jury. Prosecutors had sought a 50-year sentence, while his attorney asked for a six-year sentence.
The case against Kareem, also known as Decarus Thomas, was the first Islamic State-related prosecution to reach trial of the dozens brought by the federal government across the nation and the second to result in a jury verdict.
Kareem, his hands and feet shackled and clad in prison orange, maintained his innocence during the sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, as he did throughout his three-week trial.
"I had nothing to do with this," he told the court, adding in a statement read by his attorney that he felt the prosecution was more about his Muslim faith than his involvement. Kareem converted seven years ago.
"I feel that I have been charged stereotypically," the statement said.
The original indictment said Kareem supplied the two gunmen with arms and helped them prepare for the attack. He was later accused of supporting the Islamic State in social media posts, researching travel to the Middle East to train with terrorists and seeking to make explosives that could be used during the Super Bowl.
Bolton called the crimes "extraordinarily serious" and said a significant sentence was warranted for Kareem’s role in the crime despite his not being present during the attack.
"That doesn’t mean he wasn't an integral part... of what was intended to happen in Texas," she said in pronouncing the sentence.
Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi of Phoenix were killed by Garland police after they opened fire with assault rifles outside the event. It was intended to satirize Islam's Prophet Mohammed.
Such portrayals are considered offensive by Muslims. None of the approximately 150 people attending the Garland event were hurt, but a security guard was wounded.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Chris Reese and Dan Grebler)