Saturday, September 22, 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
Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular season. The Tor...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

ST. PETERSBURG — A 47-year-old Pinellas Park man died Friday night after his pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic, rolled over and ejected him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Troopers said the crash took place at 7:15 p.m. at Feather So...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

Before resuming her assault on USF's record books, Kitija Laksa will try to make history with her homeland.A native of Riga, Latvia, Laksa begins play with her native country this morning in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain.Latvia is ma...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Published: 09/22/18
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18
Doby needed surgery. It cost $10,000. Twitter to the rescue.

Doby needed surgery. It cost $10,000. Twitter to the rescue.

Two full-time University of South Florida students found themselves with a $10,000 bill to keep their beloved mutt Doby alive. So they turned to the Internet.Twitter to the rescue — for once.It started Sept. 15, when USF student Sarah Marie Grassi le...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Football: Sickles 7, Freedom 3

TAMPA — Sickles needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to escape Freedom 7-3 on Homecoming and remain in the hunt for a Class 7A, District 8 title.Gryphons coach Patrick Murphy knew that facing the Patriots would be a battle. Freedom (1-...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18

Football: Armwood 24, Jefferson 14

SEFFNER — Armwood is becoming accustomed to winning close games.The Hawks fended off visiting Jefferson 24-14 in a defensive battle that featured a plethora of holding penalties in the second half.Armwood (3-1) earned two rushing touchdowns from juni...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18