Local News

Prosecutors rest in local terrorist's murder-for-hire trial

Posted November 7, 2012 4:21 p.m. EST
Updated November 7, 2012 11:23 p.m. EST

— Federal prosecutors rested their case Wednesday against a convicted terrorist accused in a murder-for-hire plot. The defendant, who is representing himself in the case, chose not to present any evidence.

Hysen Sherifi, 28, is serving 45 years in prison after being convicted last year in a Triangle-based terror plot that aimed to kill Marines at the base in Quantico, Va., as well as people overseas. He is on trial for allegedly conspiring to behead government witnesses who testified against him in that case.

During closing arguments, Sherifi had to be escorted from the courtroom after he refused several times to stop what U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt referred to as "religious-themed preaching" to jurors.

Jurors will begin deliberations in the case on Thursday.

The trial started Monday, with prosecutors telling jurors that Sherifi, from behind bars, ordered three people killed.

He was busted in a sting in which a middleman provided fake pictures appearing to show one target beheaded and lying in a shallow grave.

Jurors spent the past two days listening to audio recordings in which the government accuses Sherifi of discussing the plans with a fellow inmate, who was approached by Sherifi to help him hire a hit man.

That inmate then contacted his fiancé and told her to contact the FBI. The FBI then used the two to record conversations.

Prosecutors played clips of jailhouse conversations on Wednesday in which Sherifi allegedly insists that the targets be beheaded, not shot, and is insistent about having photos of all the victims before their bodies were disposed.

"Chop (the head) off with an ax," a man prosecutors say is Sherifi said in one recording. "Get rid of the body. They know how to do that. I just want the trophy."

Jurors also saw video clips involving the fiancé – referred to in the clips as Ms. D – and two people Sherifi allegedly recruited to help him carry out the hit – his brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, and a friend, Nevine Elshiekh.

In one clip, Elshiekh meets with Ms. D to give Ms. D a photo of one of the alleged targets. Ms. D is acting as an intermediary for a made-up assassin named Treetop.

"I've got the picture from Treetop, and Treetop wants to make sure it's the right person to be killed," Ms. D says.

In another clip, Elshiekh meets again with Ms. D to give her money.

A third clip involves Ms. D and Shkumbin Sherifi.

Shkumbin Sherifi and Elshiekh, 47, a former special education teacher at a Morrisville charter school, both pleaded guilty last week to federal charges in the case. Sentencing is scheduled for February, when they could receive up to 10 years in prison.

Each also testified Wednesday.

Elshiekh said she met Hysen Sherifi after he was arrested in the terrorism case and the two became friends. At one point, she said, he proposed to her.

Shkumbin Sherifi talked about a jailhouse visit with his brother after Hysen Sherifi was convicted in which he showed him a faked photo of one of the targets dead.

"He was very happy," Shkumbin Sherifi said. "He said, 'That right there is the greatest Jihad.'"

Hysen Sherifi has said that he was arrested because of his Muslim faith.

On Monday, he rocked in his chair, shouted and lectured jurors on the meaning of Quranic verses for about 15 minutes before U.S. District Judge W. Earl Britt ordered him to stop.

When jurors were dismissed for the day, he told Britt that the Vatican has gone unpunished, despite revelations that priests molested children and were protected by their superiors.

"You want to make cases because we fight for Allah," Sherifi said. "I'm telling you, you have transgressed against Allah."