HomePoliticsObama-Nominated Judge Orders Release of Man Accused of Plotting ISIS-Inspired Attacks

Obama-Nominated Judge Orders Release of Man Accused of Plotting ISIS-Inspired Attacks

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A federal judge on Monday issued an order for the release of a Maryland man who has been incarcerated for over four years on allegations that he planned attacks in the Washington, D.C. area that were inspired by the Islamic State and targeted an airport as well as a retail and entertainment complex.

In August, Rondell Henry, 32, of Germantown, Maryland, entered a guilty plea for an attempted act of violence at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. Henry was a resident of Germantown.

Appointed by former President Barack Obama, U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis consented to sentence Henry to the time in prison that he has already served since his arrest in March 2019.

The judge, in accordance with the plea bargains reached between the defense and prosecution, imposed Henry a lifelong supervised release order along with an obligatory enrollment in a mental health treatment program.

“It’s an unusual resolution for a highly unusual case,” Xinis said.

Prosecutors claim that at that hour, Henry, who was 28 years old at the time, abandoned his intention to crash a stolen U-Haul into pedestrians at the airport because he did not believe there would be a sizable gathering.

Following his parking of the vehicle at National Harbor, a well-liked waterfront destination in Maryland situated just outside the nation’s capital, Henry was apprehended by the police.

According to a prosecutor, Henry intended to murder the greatest number of “disbelievers” despite the fact that he caused no damage to anyone at either point.

Prosecutors claim that Henry’s strategies were influenced by the July 2016 vehicle attack in Nice, France, which resulted in 86 fatalities and hundreds of injuries and was perpetrated by an al Qaeda sympathizer while commemorating Bastille Day.

For years, Henry’s case was in a state of uncertainty due to concerns regarding his mental capacity. His attorneys informed the court the previous year of his intention to assert an insanity defense.

In the end, Henry consented to enter a guilty plea for a felony, which is punishable by a maximum of twenty years in prison.

However, both defense and prosecution counsel reached a consensus that time served and lifelong supervised release, along with mandatory mental health treatment and adherence to prescribed medication, would be suitable sentences for Henry.

“This had the potential to cause mass death, mass casualties, as well as widespread fear,” said a prosecutor, Jessica Collins.

Ned Smock, the defense attorney, stated following the hearing that he is uncertain as to when Henry will be released from custody.

“This is by no means a lenient outcome,” said Smock, an assistant federal public defender. “Everybody is on board with the idea that this is an appropriate sentence.”

Henry disclosed to the judge that he is committed to receiving the necessary mental health treatment and feels “much better.” He expressed eager anticipation for the reunion with his family, which will consist of his sister, mother, and stepfather.

“This is the most important thing to me,” he added.

Henry, according to his attorneys, began experiencing symptoms of schizophrenia and having delusional and paranoid thoughts several months prior to his arrest.

Since beginning daily medication to treat his mental health condition, he has reportedly stopped having delusional thoughts and hallucinations.

“His family is thrilled to report that he is himself again,” his lawyers wrote. “He is anxious to return to work, his family, and the law-abiding life he was leading before his mental health deteriorated.”

Henry acknowledges luring a U-Haul van from a parking facility in Alexandria, Virginia, and utilizing it to navigate the Washington metropolitan area during the night. Early on March 27, 2019, he transported the vehicle to Dulles airport.

Henry later told investigators that he went to the airport because he “was trying to hurt people there” and “was going to try to drive through a crowd of people” but left because “there wasn’t a big enough crowd” at the airport, according to prosecutors.

“Henry instead entered the terminal building, where he attempted to tail another individual into a restricted area of the airport but was prevented from doing so,” prosecutors wrote.

Henry drove from the airport to National Harbor, where he slept on a private yacht owned by a third party and parked his van. The following morning, after discovering the vehicle and observing Henry scale a security fence, the police apprehended him.

In 2019, Henry faced charges related to his alleged endeavor to furnish material support to the Islamic State, a foreign terrorist organization. According to his attorneys, the evidence does not support the claim that Henry was “acting to support an extremist organization.”

Henry, according to prosecutors, viewed propaganda videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians published by the Islamic State.

The images on his mobile devices depicted the IS flag, the October 2018 Tree of Life synagogue murder in Pittsburgh, and the perpetrator of the 2016 Pulse nightclub atrocity in Orlando, Florida.

Henry apparently discarded one of his phones on an interstate in Maryland with the intention of destroying evidence.

February 2020 saw the ruling by Xinis that Henry lacked the capacity to stand trial. She extended his court-ordered hospitalization on multiple occasions.

Conversely, in May 2022, the judge rendered a verdict affirming Henry’s mental capacity to stand trial, stating that he was able to comprehend the offenses levied against him and could contribute to his own defense.

Henry, who was an adolescent when he immigrated to the United States from Trinidad and Tobago, is a naturalized citizen. He held the position of IT service desk technician.

His attorneys stated that the time served sentence of more than four years and six months “is in no way lenient” in light of his prior clean criminal record and the arduous experiences he endured while incarcerated and transported between correctional facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mr. Henry was not a threat to the public prior to this episode and he will never again pose any threat now that he is connected with services that will provide the treatment and medication that he needs,” they wrote.

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