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Triangle terrorist gets life sentence in beheading plot

A convicted Triangle terrorist was sentenced Friday to life in prison on charges that he plotted to kill government witnesses who testified against him in his 2011 trial.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A convicted Triangle terrorist was sentenced Friday to life in prison on charges that he plotted to kill government witnesses who testified against him in his 2011 trial.

Meanwhile, two others convicted in the case received sentences far less than the 10-year maximum they faced.

Authorities said Hysen Sherifi, 29, enlisted the help of his younger brother and a female friend to pay a hit man to carry out the killings against three witnesses and three law enforcement officers.

An FBI informant accepted $5,000 in payment and then provided faked photos appearing to show a beheaded corpse as confirmation of the hit, federal prosecutors argued.

A jury found him guilty last November of nine counts involving conspiring to commit a murder-for-hire.

One of the targeted witnesses called Sherifi "the devil among us walking on Earth" at the sentencing hearing.

Sherifi is already serving a 45-year sentence for plots to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Va., and targets overseas. He was among seven Triangle-area residents charged in 2009 with conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks, raising money and gathering weapons to support terrorist activities and engaging in military-style training.

Federal agents set up a sting after an inmate in the New Hanover County jail, where Sherifi was being held during his terrorism trial, said Sherifi asked him to hire a hit man.

At Sherifi's direction, his brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, and friend, Nevine Elshiekh, spent the first week of 2012 rounding up money to pay for the initial hit on a government witness, authorities said.

Shkumbin Sherifi, 23, and Elshiekh, 48, pleaded guilty last November and testified against Hysen Sherifi.

Dr. Emily Keram, a forensic psychiatrist from San Francisco, testified Friday that Elshiekh, a former special education teacher, was on various prescription drugs for depression and anxiety when she became infatuated with Hysen Sherifi in 2011. The "perfect storm of medication" impaired her mental capacity, and she was never aware that she was part of an assassination plot, Keram said.

Dr. George Corvin, a forensic psychiatrist in Raleigh, didn't dispute Keram's findings but said it was clear to him, based on what Elshiekh told investigators when she was arrested last year, that Elshiekh knew what she was doing.

Elshiekh's attorneys requested a two-year sentence, but prosecutors said she should receive six to seven years in prison. U.S. District Judge Earl Britt sentenced her to 3½ years.

"Ironically and tragically, it's only the woman who wanted to help him and his own brother that he actually, physically succeeded in victimizing," said Charles Swift, attorney for Elshiekh.

Like Elshiekh, Shkumbin Sherifi sought a two-year sentence. Prosecutors agreed that he helped connect the dots for investigators in the case, but they asked for a five- to six-year sentence. Britt sentenced him to three years in prison.

"Mr. Sherifi is grateful for the judgment of the court and for the government, who came forward and told the judge he did the right thing," said Jim Payne, Shkumbin Sherifi's attorney.


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