Ex-Metro Transit police officer convicted of trying to aid Islamic State

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A jury in Virginia has convicted the first police officer charged in the United States with attempting to support the Islamic State.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said 38-year-old Nicholas Young, of Fairfax, was convicted Monday in federal court after a weeklong trial in Alexandria.

Young was a Metro Transit police when he was arrested last year after being targeted in a terrorism sting operation.

Prosecutors said Young bought gift cards he thought would be used by the Islamic State. But the person he gave the cards to was working for the FBI.

Young was fired upon his arrest at Metro headquarters in August 2016.

“Nicholas Young swore an oath to protect and defend, and instead violated the public’s trust by attempting to support ISIS,” Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

The trial revealed Young had been under federal surveillance since 2010.

Young argued he was entrapped.

The trial featured testimony from two undercover informants who met with Young dozens of times over the years. They used pseudonyms and testified from behind a large screen in the courtroom.

One, who testified as “Khalil Sullivan,” said Young came under surveillance because of his associations with other FBI targets, including Zachary Chesser, who was convicted of trying to travel to Somalia to join the militant group al-Shabab, and of threatening the creators of the “South Park” cartoon series for episodes Chesser thought insulted Islam.

The second informant, who went by “Mo,” was the primary figure in the sting operation. Mo portrayed himself as a recent convert to Islam who traveled overseas to join the Islamic State. As part of the sting, Mo and an FBI agent went to Turkey in 2014 to make the story authentic. An FBI agent testified he was concerned Young could use his connections as a police officer to find out whether Mo had really taken an international flight.

Prosecutors highlighted Young’s fascination with Nazis, a fact prosecutors said meshed with his radical Islamic views because of a shared anti-Semitism.

Defense lawyers tried before the trial to ban such evidence, fearing it was overly prejudicial.

WTOP’s Amanda Iacone contributed to this report.

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