By Paula McMahon
Raees Alam Qazi, 22, and his brother, Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 32, of Oakland Park, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to assault two deputy U.S. marshals. The younger brother also admitted he tried to provide material support to al-Qaida. Raees Qazi admitted he planned to set off a bomb in Manhattan.
Two Broward County brothers were sentenced to the maximum punishment Thursday after admitting they planned a terrorist attack on New York City landmarks and later assaulted two deputy U.S. marshals in custody.
Raees Alam Qazi, 22, who played the lead role in the conspiracy and cycled around looking for bomb targets in Manhattan was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. That is three years more than he expected under the terms of his plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His brother, Sheheryar Alam Qazi, 32, who provided support, was sentenced to a 20-year prison term, also three years more than expected.
U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom told the Pakistani-born men they had taken advantage of the benefits that U.S. citizenship and life conveyed on them to plot violence and hatred against their fellow-Americans.
The judge also chastized Sheheryar Qazi for supporting “your brother's devotion to al-Qaida.”
The men's involvement in the terrorist conspiracy was “evil and reprehensible,” she told them.
Dressed in beige prison scrubs and handcuffed and shackled, both men were quiet and polite in court but declined the judge's invitation to speak before they were sentenced.
The Oakland Park men pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to assault two deputy U.S. marshals. The younger brother pleaded guilty to an additional charge of attempting to provide material support to the terrorist group al-Qaida.
Bloom said she decided the maximum permitted penalties were the appropriate punishments for the men.
The judge said the younger Qazi's plan to set off a bomb in a crowded section of Manhattan around Thanksgiving 2012 was similar to the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. She praised the undercover investigation conducted by the FBI's South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“That investigation, over many months, may have prevented what could have been the tragic loss of many lives,” the judge said.
The brief court hearing in federal court in Miami was held under tight security, partly because of the men's terrorist crimes but also because of what they did to the two marshals during an April 2012 incident in the Miami courthouse complex.
The judge emphasized to both men that the U.S. had welcomed them and provided them with many opportunities and benefits when they moved here with their family in 2000.
The men took advantage of educational benefits by attending public school and technical college in South Florida, she said.
The older brother also received treatment at medical centers here and his young son has benefited from taxpayer-supported pre-school, the judge said.
It is expected that the men will be moved from the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami, where they have been detained in the highest-security section since shortly after their arrests in November 2012, to serve their punishments in the notorious “Supermax” federal prison in Florence, Colo.
A former prison warden called it “a clean version of hell.” Inmates there are held in much harsher conditions than in other U.S. prisons, with little human contact and very restricted access to anyone other than their guards.