Local News

Federal prosecutors play recordings, video in beheading plot

Posted November 6, 2012 6:18 p.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2012 7:20 p.m. EST

— Jurors in the federal trial of a man accused of wanting to behead three people viewed videos and listened to recordings about the alleged plot on Tuesday.

Hysen Sherifi, 28, is on trial for charges stemming from accusations that he planned with his younger brother and a female friend to pay a hit man to carry out the killings.

At the time, he was already serving 45 years in prison after being convicted for plots to attack a Marine base at Quantico, Va., and targets overseas.

In court Tuesday, federal prosecutors claimed it is Sherifi's voice on the recordings with a fellow inmate in which Sherifi allegedly talks about beheading two government witnesses in his first trial as well as another person who reportedly conned Sherifi out of money.

Sherifi, who is acting as his own attorney, has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors also showed a video of Nevine Elshiekh, the female friend, handing over photos of the people Sherifi allegedly wanted beheaded.

Elshiekh, one of two people who pleaded guilty last week to charges in the case, is expected to testify later this week.

In opening statements Monday, prosecutors said Sherifi was already in custody in the terror case when he asked another inmate in the same lockup to help him hire a hit man.

The fellow inmate contacted the FBI, allowing federal agents to set up a sting operation that included a confidential informant posing as the representative of a shadowy assassin named Treetop.

At Sherifi's direction, his brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, 22, and Elshiekh spent the first week of 2012 rounding up $5,000 to pay for the initial hit on a government witness, said prosecutor Matthew Blue of the U.S. Justice Department's counterterrorism section.

Elshiekh hocked her gold jewelry to help finance the beheading, he said.

In the sting, a middleman collected the money and later provided faked pictures appearing to show the targeted witness beheaded and lying in a shallow grave. His co-conspirators brought Hysen Sherifi a photo, holding it against the wire separation in the jail's visiting area, Blue said. Sherifi told the inmate claiming to have murder-for-hire connections he wasn't satisfied with the killing, Blue said.

"He had one complaint; 'I wish you wouldn't have wasted a bullet. I wish you would have just chopped his head off,'" Blue told jurors.

After opening statements by prosecutors, Sherifi read Quranic verses to jurors in Arabic and lectured them on their meaning in English.

"We fight for Allah. We have authority. Do you have authority to make laws for mankind?" Sherifi told jurors without describing who else he claimed to represent. "We do not make laws. We follow the laws that have been revealed by Allah."