By John Terhune
BU News Service
An Everett man convicted of conspiring to aid ISIS was sentenced to 30 years in prison at a resentencing hearing in U.S. District Court Monday. The sentence, handed down by Senior District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, will extend the domestic terrorist’s jail time by two years, even after the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned one of his convictions in August 2019.
David Daoud Wright was convicted in October 2017 of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries and obstruction of justice.
He was initially sentenced to 28 years in prison, but on appeal, the First Circuit vacated one terrorism charge because the trial court judge gave the jury inaccurate instructions. The case was remanded to the district court and reassigned to Judge Woodlock.
Much of Monday’s hearing revolved around technical questions, with the attorneys for Wright and the government arguing for different sentencing guidelines. Woodlock generally sided with the defense on these issues, chastising the prosecution for failing to appeal the original case’s erroneous sentencing guidelines to the First Circuit.
“Nobody bothered to do it because nobody thought that it would be that important,” said the judge.
Still, Woodlock sentenced Wright to 30 years in prison, two more than he received in the original 2017 hearing. The judge said he was “not bound to the previous sentence, either upward or downward,” and that the severity of the remaining terrorism charge allowed the court to impose a significant sentence.
According to court documents, Wright formed an ISIS cell with his uncle, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, and Nicholas Rovinski in 2014. By May 2015, the three were actively planning to murder and behead Pamela Geller, an anti-Mulsim activist targeted by ISIS.
During Monday’s proceedings, the prosecution emphasized Wright’s role as the leader of the group.
“The defendant was a sophisticated recruiter, a master manipulator,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann. “This was someone that hated the United States that wanted people to die.”
Wright’s defense team attempted to characterize the defendant as a social misfit merely roleplaying a terrorist. Addressing the court, defense counsel Jessica Hedges called Wright “an extreme case of failure to launch.”
She said that he retreated deep into an online world after dropping out of college, becoming obsessed with Islamic extremist ideology “just like he became obsessed with League of Legends,” a popular video game.
Judge Woodlock was unreceptive to this argument.
“There are some things that you don’t roleplay,” he said.
Still, Woodlock disagreed with the prosecution’s assertion that Wright should face a life sentence, citing the defendant’s capacity for redemption.
“I hope it’s clear enough for Mr. Wright to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “But it’s a long tunnel.”