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Members of the jury that convicted an Everett man last month of plotting with ISIS to commit terrorism in America said they found it easy to reach their verdicts.
After four weeks of testimony, it took the jury only a few hours to find David Wright guilty of all charges against him.
The judge in the case initially refused to release the jurors' names, but changed his mind as a result of legal arguments made by WBUR. Two jurors then spoke to WBUR about what they learned throughout the course of the trial.
'We Didn't Look At Anything That Had To Do With Our Feelings'
After weeks of testimony, hundreds of exhibits and a relentless assault of hate speech, ISIS propaganda, violent ideology and graphic video to match, Rachel Haddock, the forewoman of the jury, said the trial had changed her.
"I have to say we didn’t look at anything that had to do with our feelings," she said. "We looked at the evidence, and we followed what the judge instructed us to do."
Haddock described the towering defendant as “pathetic.” One thing Wright and his two co-conspirators had in common was this: They lived with their mothers.
Wright lived in a basement, a 532-pound man who spent 10 to 12 hours a day on a couch playing video games and surfing online as a self-styled scholar and jihadi warrior. At trial, he claimed he was harmless.
"Although I do believe that he regrets his decisions, I also believe that he was becoming extremely radicalized, and he was moving toward something that could have been extremely tragic," Haddock said.
The plot he was convicted of planning was the beheading of Pamela Geller, a controversial blogger who sponsored a cartoon contest to make fun of the Prophet Mohammed.
Haddock's fellow juror, Steve Bowman, said at first look, Wright could be just another guy.
"If you saw him on the train or the bus, you would have no impression other than, 'oh, normal guy,' " Bowman said.
But as Bowman sat in the jury box, he formed a different impression.
"You read in your papers, or news or radio, and you think, 'oh, that can’t really happen! How can people do this?' But then to be sitting there, it's like 'oh my god, this is real.' "
When he took the stand in his own defense, Wright impressed the jurors as intelligent and well-spoken. He described his conduct as role-playing in a fantasy world. Like the video game "Mortal Kombat," Wright claimed it wasn’t real, and he intended no harm.
Bowman said when Wright took the stand, however, he did not find his testimony credible.
"Minimal, minimal credibility," Bowman said. "I think it was all coaching. He got caught, and I was not buying it."
As calm as Wright was, the jurors believed he was well-rehearsed.
They gave much more weight to the substantial evidence that Wright had crossed the line from fantasy to reality. The crucial evidence, the two jurors said, were the audiotapes recorded by FBI agents who had been monitoring the three co-conspirators for months.
'He Clearly Had A Choice'
On the morning of June 2, 2015, Wright’s uncle, Usaamah Rahim, tells Wright he doesn’t want to wait to behead Geller, he wants to instead "go after those boys in blue."
The jurors say that in that moment, Wright did not tell his uncle that this was fantasy. He failed to try to stop him.
"He clearly had a choice to stop his uncle from moving forward with his plan to attack the police," Haddock said.
"He didn’t say 'time out.' You know, 'we’re joking,' " Bowman said.
"He did nothing," Haddock added. "In fact, he encouraged him and said he would receive his martyrdom."
The consequences were real — as was Wright's intent, say the two jurors. And that undercut Wright's contention that he was play-acting in a fantasy world.
Forewarned of Rahim's intentions, an FBI agent and a police officer approached him in a parking lot in Roslindale. A recording revealed that Rahim then pulled out a knife — the knife that was initially purchased to behead Geller. After asking him to drop it, Rahim refuses and says, "Why don't you shoot me?" The police fired, killing him.
On another recorded phone call Wright would later lie to his uncle’s family saying he had not spoken with Rahim and didn’t know anything about what happened.
"He had testified that his intention wasn't for anything to ever be real, but if you look at amount of activity that he had to push this forward, it was just so overwhelming," Haddock said.
Yet the jury was discerning. It concluded that one of the government's key witnesses, a confidential informant who had been assigned to reel Wright in, was lying. It was also skeptical of how the FBI mishandled some evidence and did not come up with other evidence.
Still, the deliberations had no drama. It took only six hours to convict him.
Neither juror fears for the future. But Bowman is amazed at the scale of monitoring that is now warranted.
"You need to have all these people, accessing information, translating the information, building the case, putting all the pieces together, and at the end of the day, it's just for this one guy who's living in the basement of his mother's house playing video games," he said. "So you can imagine, there are hundreds, thousands [of] individuals out there."
The Joint Terrorism Task Force has now made seven criminal cases against homegrown jihadis in Massachusetts. Prosecutors have convinced juries of the dangers they present.
Wright may be an emblem of the new normal. He'll be sentenced next month.
This segment aired on November 15, 2017.
- Everett Man Found Guilty On All Charges In ISIS Terrorist Plot
- Mass. Man On Trial In Beheading Plot: I Was Living In A 'Fantasy'
- Boston Man Killed By Law Enforcement Allegedly Planned To Attack 'Boys In Blue'
- Man Pleads Guilty In Plot To Behead Blogger For Islamic State
- Boston Terror Suspect David Wright Found Guilty On All Counts
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