United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Khalil Abu-Rayyan pled guilty to making a false statement to
acquire a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6), and possession
of a firearm by a prohibited person, 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(3). On March 13, 2017 and continued on March 27, 2017,
due to a building closure because of inclement weather, this
court held a sentencing hearing which spanned approximately
four hours. In reaching its sentencing decision, the court
has carefully considered the oral presentations of counsel
for both sides at the sentencing hearing, the videotaped
statement by Abu-Rayyan, Abu-Rayyan's personal statement
made at the sentencing hearing, the sentencing memorandum
filed by Abu-Rayyan and the government, the sentencing
addendum filed by Abu-Rayyan, and the presentence
investigation report)(“PSR”). The court is also
intimately familiar with the facts of this case based on,
among other things, the briefing and two expert reports
regarding Abu-Rayyan's mental competence which have been
filed under seal,  as well as Abu-Rayyan's two motions
for release on bond. This Memorandum Opinion is meant to
expand on the court's reasoning for granting an upward
variance as discussed at the sentencing hearing held on April
6, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the court shall
sentence Abu-Rayyan to 60-months imprisonment.
Findings of Fact
Abu-Rayyan was 12 years old, he was referred to counseling
because he told his teacher that he dreamed he had a gun and
shot everyone in the class. (Dr. Tillbrook's Report, Doc.
106-1 at PageID 997).
While in school, Abu-Rayyan engaged in assaultive behavior
requiring him to be suspended from school on three or four
occasions for fighting. Id. At the age of 19, he
also was in a fight with his brother, which resulted in the
police being called and Abu-Rayyan being detained for 18
hours. Id. at PageID 998.
the age of 17, Abu-Rayyan began using marijuana. Between the
ages of 19 and 21, Abu-Rayyan admitted he was smoking 10 to
15 marijuana blunts per day, every day. Id. at
Abu-Rayyan reports that his childhood was devoid of abuse and
his necessities of life were provided, but he was bullied by
his peers. (PSR ¶ 44-45).
least as early as November, 2014, Abu-Rayyan retweeted,
liked, and commented on acts of terror and martyrdom on
behalf of the foreign terrorist organization Islamic State of
Iraq and Levant (formerly al-Qa'ida in Iraq) commonly
referred to as “ISIL.” His conduct included seeking
out internet links to gruesome ISIS videos, posting them on
his Twitter accounts and posting positive comments after
viewing the executions and killings depicted in the ISIS
videos. (PSR ¶¶ 50-51).
propaganda on his Twitter account included videos of a
Jordanian fighter pilot being burned alive, handcuffed people
being executed by being thrown from a high-rise building, the
beheading of a Christian in Egypt, and news of ISIS
victories. (PSR ¶ 51).
January 22, 2015, Abu-Rayyan added to his
“favorites” on his Twitter account a photograph
of a person about to have his throat slit with a knife. (Doc.
88, Ex. A).
February 19, 2015, the FBI found a photograph uploaded on
Abu-Rayyan's Twitter account showing him dressed in
camouflage, with two similarly dressed individuals, holding a
semi-automatic hand gun in his right hand, and making an ISIS
symbol with his left index finger. (Doc. 88, Ex. B).
October 5, 2015, Abu-Rayyan purchased a .22 caliber revolver
from a sporting goods store. In response to a question on a
form required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
and Explosives (“ATF”) whether he was an unlawful
user of, or addicted to marijuana, Abu-Rayyan falsely stated
that he was not. (PSR ¶ 12).
October 7, 2015, Detroit police pulled Abu-Rayyan over for
speeding. They found the .22 caliber revolver in the car,
along with four bags of marijuana. Abu-Rayyan admitted he did
not have a concealed pistol license. Abu-Rayyan was arrested
for carrying a concealed weapon in an automobile and
possession of marijuana. (PSR ¶ 13).
After his arrest, Abu-Rayyan replaced his cell phone and
downloaded more disturbing images, including the ISIL flag,
people with firearms with the ISIL flag, people who appeared
to be burned alive. His wallpaper on his new phone was the
picture of a man making an ISIS symbol with his left hand and
holding the severed head of a woman with his right hand. (PSR
November 15, 2015, Abu-Rayyan attempted to purchase another
firearm from a different sporting goods retailer. Again,
Abu-Rayyan lied on the ATF form and denied that he was a
marijuana user. Due to his pending criminal case, he was not
allowed to purchase the firearm. (PSR ¶ 15).
Also, on November 15, 2015, Abu-Rayyan and another
individual, went to a local firing range, rented an AK-47 and
an AR-15, which they practiced shooting. (PSR ¶ 15).
late November, 2015, Abu-Rayyan tweeted photographs of
himself firing AK-47 and AR-15 type rifles. He captioned one
of the photographs “Sahwat hunting.” According to
investigators, “Sahwat” is a term for Iraquis who
oppose ISIS. (PSR ¶ 54, Doc. 88, Ex. D).
Abu-Rayyan admits that at the time he practiced using an
AK-47 and AR-15, two military type rifles, he was viewing and
downloading ISIS propaganda. (Doc. 104 at PageID 808, PSR
December 12, 2015, Abu-Rayyan sent his brother a message that
“This would be a perfect time to do a istighadi
[martyrdom/suicide] operation.” (PSR ¶ 54, Doc.
88, Ex. E, Government's Sentencing Ex. 6).
December, 2015, Abu-Rayyan began communicating with an
undercover FBI employee (“UCE”) on social media
about ISIS. (PSR ¶ 55, Doc. 104, PageID 808). He
consistently expressed his support for ISIS and his desire to
commit a martyrdom operation. (PSR ¶ 17). He provided
detailed descriptions of his plans to behead people and skin
them like sheep. (PSR ¶ 55).
mid-December, 2015, Abu-Rayyan claims he fell in love with
the UCE(s) posing as Ghadda and that he believed he was
engaged to be married to her. (Doc. 61 at PageID 374 and Ex.
During his conversations with the UCE, whom Abu-Rayyan called
“Jannah, ” Abu-Rayyan stated his desire to shoot
up a church near his place of employment. He stated he had an
AK-47 with a 40-round magazine and described the firearm as
the type of machine gun ISIS fighters carry. He told the UCE
that his father discovered the items he had in his car to
carry out the church shooting, including the AK-47, bullets,
and a mask. He told the UCE that he practiced loading and
unloading the gun, and he was targeting the church because
many people attend the church and church members were barred
from carrying firearms inside. Investigators located the
church matching the description given by Abu-Rayyan in his
posts which could accommodate up to 6, 000 people. (PSR
When the UCE asked Abu-Rayyan if he regretted not committing
the shooting at the church, he responded, “Honestly, I
regret not doing it. . . if I can't do jihad at the
middle (sic) wa. . . I would do jihad over here.” (Doc.
59 Attachment A at PageID 351.)
January, 2016, Abu-Rayyan also told the UCE that he wanted to
conduct a martyrdom operation by killing the police officer
who arrested him while the officer was in the hospital. (PSR
January, 2016, Abu-Rayyan also told the UCE that he it was
his dream to behead someone, and that he is excited about
shootings and death. (PSR ¶ 17).
January 15, 2016, Abu-Rayyan pled guilty to the state charge
of possession of marijuana and was pending trial on the
concealed weapons charge. The state case involves the same
conduct involved in this case. On February 26, 2016,
Abu-Rayyan was permitted to withdraw his guilty plea for the
charge of possession of marijuana to ...