Florida: Videos show convert to Islam burning American flag, preaching jihad terror


Shelton Thomas Bell. Times-Union file photo

Yet another convert to Islam misunderstands his new religion and gets the crazy idea that it has something to do with violence against unbelievers. Yet another convert to Islam gets the strange notion that he has ceased to be a citizen of his nation, but has instead become its enemy. If only Barack Obama or John Kerry had been around to set him straight.

“Videos depict young Jacksonville terrorist enthusiast burning American flag, preaching jihad,” by Larry Hannan, Florida Times-Union, October 23, 2014:

Like many young men in their late teens, Shelton Thomas Bell had a fondness for shooting video of himself.

But while most show them performing or playing pranks, Bell recorded himself burning an American flag, preaching jihad and repeating sermons given by an American-born Muslim cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Thursday those images of a bearded and long-haired Jacksonville resident were played in a Jacksonville courtroom while the 20-year-old, now clean-shaven with closely cropped hair, watched impassively with his lawyer while sitting at a defense table in a red prison uniform and shackles.

Bell previously pleaded guilty to conspiring and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and faces up to 30 years in prison. Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan to sentence Bell to 30 years in prison, while defense attorneys are arguing for a more lenient sentence.

Bell generated suspicions at the Islamic Center in Jacksonville after talking with teenagers about jihad and the civil war in Syria. Center attorneys contacted the FBI, and he was arrested on the terrorism charges in July 2013. Prosecutors have said in court documents that immigration authorities in Jordan also alerted the U.S. government to Bell’s actions.

Bell’s plans included traveling to Yemen to join Ansar Al-Sharia, an alias for al-Qaida. Bell and a juvenile who has never been named flew to Jordan in late 2012 in the hopes of crossing over into Yemen and joining the terrorist organization.

But they never crossed the border and ended up being arrested in Jordan after Bell preached jihad at a mosque. The Jordanian authorities sent both men back to America.

In an effort to buttress their claim that Bell was a dangerous terrorist, prosecutors called Special Agent William Berry with the U.S. Customs Joint Terrorism task force to testify for most of Thursday. Berry was one of the lead investigators in the case and has interviewed Bell multiple times, the first time right when Bell returned from Jordan.

During that first interview Bell told him he would continue to pursue violent jihad, Berry said.

Bell was particularly inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic militant and terrorist recruiter who died in Yemen in a 2011 drone strike that became controversial because he was an American citizen.

Bell had downloaded to his computer numerous al-Awlaki videos preaching jihad. Thursday prosecutors showed one of them and then videos of Bell saying similar things.

“The worst thing that can happen to you is death,” Bell says in one video. “And that’s really not that bad.”

Bell speaks repeatedly of the need for Muslims to rise up against the United States and other western powers. The videos also show him firing guns, making amateur bombs and criticizing Muslims who oppose terrorism, calling them “blatant hypocrites.” He and another man also are shown getting ready to vandalize an Arlington church in July 2012. Statues were defaced at Chapel Hills Memory Gardens cemetery, with the head and arms of Jesus cut off.

The video of guns and bombs also show him burning a small American flag while several others cheer.

The second day of Bell’s sentencing hearing will be Friday with both sides calling mental-health experts.

Attorneys for Bell will argue that he never committed any terrorist acts and lacked the funds and contacts to provide much help to a terrorist organization.

“One thing he never did was take up arms against his own countrymen, which, if he were truly interested in more than just the concept of armed jihad, would have been easier to do in Jacksonville than halfway around the world,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Lisa Call in a sentencing memorandum.

Call is expected to argue that Bell suffers from extreme attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, had substance-abuse issues and grew up in a dysfunctional home….

Oh, that explains it.


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