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4 Men Indicted in Alleged Plot to Spread Terror in Southland

September 01, 2005|Greg Krikorian and Solomon Moore | Times Staff Writers

A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted four men -- including the alleged leader of a radical Islamist prison gang -- accusing them of plotting a string of terrorist attacks on U.S. military facilities and synagogues in Southern California.

The six-count indictment accuses Kevin Lamar James, 29; Levar Haney Washington, 25; and Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana, both 21, of planning attacks on sites including National Guard recruitment centers and the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles.

All four were charged with conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism. The plot, the indictment says, was hatched by James, currently an inmate at one of the two state prisons in Folsom, Calif., and alleged founder of a small gang of radical Muslims.

Government officials say they have no evidence that the men were tied to Al Qaeda or any other foreign terrorist group.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 02, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 56 words Type of Material: Correction
Terrorism indictment -- An article in Thursday's Section A said a suspect indicted on terrorism-related charges had attended the same Catholic high school as professional athletes Barry Bonds and Tom Brady. The suspect, Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, briefly attended Junipero Serra High School in Gardena; Bonds and Brady attended Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo.

In interviews over the last few weeks, family members and friends said they had no inkling the men were involved in terrorism.

Washington, his face and neck scrawled with Rollin' 60s street gang tattoos, converted to Islam in state prison, where he was doing time for beating a former gang member unconscious at a 1998 rap concert.

Patterson took classes at El Camino College and Cal State Northridge and still lived at home with his parents, both community college employees. A former Catholic school student described by acquaintances as bookish and quiet, Patterson fell in love with the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and converted three years ago.

Samana was raised a Muslim in Pakistan and moved with his family five years ago to an apartment in Inglewood. He worked at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, attended Santa Monica College, played cricket and ran cross-country.

Despite their different backgrounds, the three young men shared a faith that led them to encounter each other at the Jamat-e-Masjidul Islam mosque, across the street from Samana's apartment, three months ago.

Authorities allege that their meeting was a key moment in a complex conspiracy that had its roots 400 miles away at California State Prison, Sacramento, which is actually in Folsom.

There, James dreamed up the idea of attacking targets in Southern California and urged Washington, then a fellow prisoner, to implement the plan when released in November 2004, the indictment says.

Prison officials years ago marked James as a radical Muslim and a security threat, and transferred him from another state prison after he allegedly founded a prison gang called Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh, or the Assembly of Authentic Islam. Authorities say the group espoused such a violent interpretation of the Koran that they scattered its followers across the state prison system in hopes of squelching the movement.

The alleged actions of Samana and Patterson trouble officials, because neither had a criminal record. But authorities say they are equally troubled that James and Washington were able to hatch the alleged plot at a state prison -- without any apparent ties to international terrorist organizations.

James, who also went by several aliases, including Shakyh Shahaab Murshid and Abdul-Wahid Ash-Sheena, "emerged from the Nation of Islam," said one official, who declined to be identified because of the government's ban on speaking publicly about the case. "He decided they were not radical enough."

The Nation of Islam, currently led by Louis Farrakhan, is one of the largest Muslim sects in U.S. prisons, though it differs from mainstream Islam in its adherence to the teachings of the late black separatist Elijah Muhammad. Although the group has been criticized in the past for harshly condemning the U.S. government and making anti-Semitic remarks, it publicly opposes terrorism.

James created Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh while in prison at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, according to investigators.

He bolstered his Islamist credentials by claiming to have spent time in Sudan, sources close to the investigation said. He clandestinely distributed a protocol for his organization that justified attacks on "enemies of Islam," including the U.S. government, Jews, supporters of Israel and other "infidels," the indictment says.

This is how Washington allegedly got involved. Before Washington left Folsom, James directed him to find recruits without felony records, acquire firearms and then appoint one follower to learn about explosives or to recruit a bomb maker, the indictment says. (Washington's attorney declined to comment because the lawyer said he would not represent Washington in fighting the federal charges.)

It was about six months after Washington left Folsom that he arrived at the mosque in Inglewood and met Samana and Patterson.

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