Tim Ryan and Brandi Buchman | Courthouse News Service
A Washington, D.C., transit police officer was arrested Wednesday on a charge of trying to support the Islamic State terrorist group by buying gift cards, becoming the first U.S. cop to face such charges.
Nicholas Young, a 36-year-old Fairfax, Va., resident, allegedly talked with an undercover officer in 2011 about wanting to kidnap and torture an FBI special agent who had questioned him and later praised jihadist martyrs, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint released Wednesday.
Young, who worked as a Metro Transit Police Department officer since 2003, also allegedly encouraged an FBI source to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, and gave the source advice on how to get there.
Young himself allegedly traveled to Libya in 2011, where he met with rebels working against the Muammar Gadhafi regime. Young allegedly carried body armor, a kevlar helmet and other “military-style” items on the trip, according to the affidavit.
Last Thursday, Young allegedly sent an FBI source 22 gift card codes for a messaging application ISIL uses to communicate with recruits. The FBI redeemed the codes for $245, according to the press release announcing Young’s arrest.
Young also allegedly told an undercover officer that he tortured animals when he was a child and authorities say in June 2015 police interviewed him at his house about an alleged domestic violence incident, according to the affidavit.
During that interview, Young allegedly told the officer he dressed up as “Jihadi John” for a Halloween party in 2014, complete with an orange jumpsuit stuffed with paper meant to mimic a headless hostage, according to the affidavit.
Law enforcement officers first met with Young in 2010 as part of an investigation into Zachary Chesser, an acquaintance of Young’s who pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to prosecutors.
Another one of Young’s acquaintances, Amine El Khalifi, pleaded guilty to plotting a suicide bombing at the US Capitol in 2012, according to the press release.
In a statement Wednesday, Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said Young was fired immediately after his arrest.
“Since I received my first briefing on this matter, [Metro Transit Police ]Chief [Ronald] Pavlik and I have worked hand-in-glove with the FBI in the interest of public safety and to ensure that this individual would be brought to justice,” Wiedefeld. “Metro Transit Police alerted the FBI about this individual and then worked with our federal partners throughout the investigation up to an including today’s arrest. Obviously, the allegations in this case are profoundly disturbing. They’re disturbing to me and they’re disturbing to everyone who wears the uniform.”
An FBI spokesman confirmed that Young is the first law enforcement officer to be charged under the federal government’s terrorism law.
Young, a white man with unkempt facial hair and a thin build, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan of the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday afternoon and requested counsel to be appointed for him.
Buchanan determined that a status hearing will be held Thursday and a detention hearing will be held Friday.
The courtroom was packed to capacity with few attendees left standing in the back before the hearing began. Young was still and otherwise silent before affirming his request for counsel. It did not appear that Young had any family members present at the hearing.
Young could face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and possible supervised release for life if convicted of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, according to Judge Buchanan.
Assistant U.S. Attorney’s Gordon D. Kromberg and John T. Gibbs of the Eastern District of Virginia and trial attorney David P. Cora of the National Security Division will represent the United States in the case.
Published by Courthouse News Service.2