Man to plead guilty in plot to behead blogger for IS group
BOSTON (AP) — A Rhode Island man charged with conspiring to help the Islamic State group has decided to plead guilty to charges he plotted with others to kill conservative blogger Pamela Geller, his lawyer and prosecutors said Tuesday.
Nicholas Rovinski, 25, is charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.
Prosecutors say the Warwick man plotted with two Massachusetts men to behead Geller. She angered Muslims when she organized a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, in May 2015. The contest ended in gunfire, with two Muslim gunmen shot to death by police. The plot against Geller was not carried out.
A document filed in court Tuesday says a change-of-plea hearing for Rovinski is scheduled for Thursday.
Rovinski’s lawyer, William Fick, confirmed that Rovinski plans to plead guilty to both conspiracy counts.
In a superseding indictment filed in April, prosecutors alleged that Rovinski — even from jail — tried to recruit people to help carry out plans for violent attacks in the United States, including the beheading of nonbelievers.
But Fick said Rovinski now renounces violence and any allegiance to the IS group.
“Nicholas Rovinski is a vulnerable young man who fell deep into a rabbit hole of extremist ideology,” Fick said in a statement.
“Nicholas has unequivocally renounced violence and disavowed any sympathy for ISIL,” Fisk said, using an alternate name for the IS group. “Nicholas hopes he will have opportunities in the future to help others reject twisted ideas and avoid making the same mistakes he did.”
Prosecutors alleged that Rovinski plotted with David Wright, of Everett, Massachusetts, and Wright’s uncle, Usaamah Rahim, of Boston, to behead Geller. Rahim, who had been under surveillance, was killed in June 2015 by investigators who said he lunged at them with a knife when they approached him in Boston. Wright has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
In the superseding indictment, prosecutors said Islamic State group recruiter Junaid Hussain communicated instructions about the plot to kill Geller directly to Rahim from overseas in May 2015. Hussain was later killed in a U.S. drone strike in Syria.
The U.S. military has said Hussain had been recruiting sympathizers in the West to commit lone-wolf terrorist attacks.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz confirmed Rovinski’s decision to plead guilty to the conspiracy charges but declined to comment further.
Geller said she was told by prosecutors that they will seek a substantial sentence for Rovinski.
“I’m satisfied that Rovinski, who clearly was the weakest link, will get a lengthy sentence,” Geller told The Associated Press. “He has renounced terrorism. ... He clearly was not the ringleader.”