Tuesday, June 19, 2018
News Roundup

Sami Osmakac gets 40 years in prison for plotting terrorist attacks in Tampa

TAMPA — Sami Osmakac, the Kosovo-born man who threatened to stage a series of terrorist attacks in Tampa, was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years in prison.

Convicted in June of possessing an unregistered AK-47 and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction — a reference to the car bomb, six grenades and suicide vest he planned to use — Osmakac faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. But federal prosecutors did not aim for the harshest sentence. Rather, they asked for and received from Judge Mary S. Scriven a lengthy prison term, followed by a lifetime of probation. Under this sentence, Osmakac, a 27-year-old Pinellas Park resident, will not emerge from a prison cell until he's in his 60s.

Federal prosecutors had accused Osmakac, an American Muslim who held extreme views on Islam, of plotting to kill hundreds of people by targeting several densely populated areas in Tampa. His plans, which never came to fruition, included bombing a South Tampa pub and then traveling to another location where he would detonate a suicide vest packed with explosives. Recorded in a series of incriminating conversations with an undercover FBI agent, he railed against Muslims who refused to join his crusade and expressed hope that he would wake up in heaven.

Osmakac's attorneys, George and Peter Tragos, argued that he deserved, at most, 20 years — a sentence in keeping with other U.S. terrorism cases. Seated at the defense table, Osmakac looked gaunt; he has not been eating, a psychologist testified. He declined to address the judge.

Throughout Osmakac's trial, the defense team argued that their client was mentally ill and had been steered toward radical and violent ideas by FBI agents and a confidential informer whose identity and motive were never revealed. Moreover, Osmakac was essentially broke and would have been unable to buy weapons if the FBI had not given money to the informer, who then gave it to Osmakac, they said.

The weapons he bought were also provided by the FBI. And in the ultimate sign of the agency's regard for Osmakac's know-how, the car bomb came with instructions telling him how to detonate it.

"We still believe in his innocence," George Tragos said following the sentencing. "We still believe this crime was initiated by the government. The government provided the money on the front end, the explosives on the back end, and it was a totally manufactured crime."

Calling Osmakac "particularly dangerous," prosecutor Sara Sweeney dismissed the claim that the government had entrapped him. "The defendant's intent here was so strong and so corroborated," she said.

Osmakac's sentencing was interrupted by his brother's testimony that various friends and acquaintances had been intimidated by FBI agents and dissuaded from testifying at his trial. Some of the people who encouraged Sami Osmakac's extreme views "disappeared" after he was arrested, said Avni Osmakac, citing an American convert to Islam named Russell Dennison. Osmakac's family has long believed that Dennison is working for the FBI.

"I am aware of nothing like that," Sweeney said. She refused to say where Dennison is currently living, only that he is no longer in the United States.

Tragos withdrew from the case on Wednesday, citing the Osmakac's family's inability to continue to pay him. After selling their home and spending thousands of dollars on their son's defense, Osmakac's family will turn to a court-appointed attorney. An appeal is expected.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

Comments
Police release video of car that killed woman, 58, in Tampa hit and run

Police release video of car that killed woman, 58, in Tampa hit and run

Times staffTAMPA — Police have identified Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58, as the pedestrian killed when a vehicle ran into her Sunday night as she was crossing N Nebraska Ave at Linebaugh Ave.The collision occurred about 9:15 a.m. as the victim stepped...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump threatens more China tariffs

Trump threatens more China tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Trade Representative to prepare new tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports as the two nations move closer to a trade war.In response, China threatened what it called "comprehensive measure...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

For starters: Rays at Astros, with Kiermaier back and an ace-high matchup

UPDATE, 4:49: Kiermaier is batting leadoff and playing center as expected, while Willy Adames is on the bench so Adeiny Hechavarria can play short in potentially a showcase for teams the Rays may hope to interest in a trade.Here is the Rays lineup:Ki...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Tech Data sending a record 700 employees to march in Pride Parade

Among the marching bands and twirlers at Saturday’s St. Pete Pride Parade, one major sponsor, Tech Data, is sending by far a record number of employees — more than 700 at last count — to march in Florida’s largest gay pride parade.The parade, which d...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Port Richey council moves closer to minimum housing standards ordinance

PORT RICHEY — In a narrow vote, Port Richey took another step toward enacting an ordinance that will create minimum housing standards in the city. Port Richey City Council members approved in a split vote last week the first reading of an ordinance d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Big Ten reaps recruiting bounty in Tampa Bay

Largo High defensive back Solomon Brown had plenty of college options with offers from 20 Division I-A schools. Still, the three-star recruit did not need to go through a prolonged process to figure out where he wanted to go.Two weeks ago, Brown comm...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

A valet at this South Tampa Publix will park your car as you shop

TAMPA — Publix shoppers in South Tampa who hate circling the lot for parking can now toss their keys to a valet.The Publix at Dale Mabry and Neptune started testing a free valet service last week that could expand to more stores. Spokesman Brian West...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Zero Bucs players on NFL top 100 list for 2018

Just to preface this, the NFL Network's annual countdown of the league's top 100 players is a made-for-TV deal, good for summer offseason conversation but not carrying any huge amount of real significance.Having said that, it's worth noting that for ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

Hernando County Animal Services searching for pet owners after Brooksville seizure

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Animal Services is looking for the owners of dogs and cats that were seized from a Brooksville home last week.Animal Services, along with the Sheriff’s Office, removed 60 dogs and 23 cats from Carol Allard, 71, after...
Updated: 3 hours ago