New Mexico compound suspects accused of gathering weapons to kill servicemembers
By MATT ZAPOTOSKY | The Washington Post | Published: March 14, 2019
Federal prosecutors on Thursday brought terrorism and other serious charges against five people arrested last year on a New Mexico compound, alleging in a new indictment that the group was gathering weapons and training in their squalid quarters to kill FBI and military personnel.
The superseding indictment significantly upgrades the charges against the five, who were arrested last year after they were discovered living with 11 children on the compound. Prosecutors say members of the group conspired to provide material support to terrorists, conspired to murder an officer of the United States and kidnapped a child who later died.
"The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired to provide material support in preparation for violent attacks against federal law enforcement officers and members of the military," Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement announcing the charges. "Advancing beliefs through terror and violence has no place in America."
The case against Jany Leveille, 36; Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; Subhanah Wahhaj, 36; and Lucas Morton, 41; drew significant attention when the group was first arrested last year — in part because of the compound on which they lived and in part because officials suggested they were Muslim "extremists." Officials found 11 guns on the compound in Amalia, near the state's border with Colorado, as well as 11 children they said were neglected and the body of Ibn Wahhaj's 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani.
Authorities said Abdul-Ghani, who was taken by his father from Georgia, faced severe health problems. A previous complaint against the group, citing an unidentified witness, alleged Leveille — an undocumented immigrant from Haiti and considered the group's leader — wanted to perform an exorcism on him.
Some of the initial state child abuse charges in the case, though, fell apart, and federal authorities initially only charged them with weapons offenses.
Amy Sirignano, a lawyer who represents Morton, declined to address the specific charges but said, "All of our clients will be pleading not guilty at the arraignment next week." She said she was referring to all those charged.
The Justice Department alleged in the new indictment that Ibn Wahhaj and Morton maintained a firing range at the compound where they trained and dug an underground tunnel, and that Leveille and Morton attempted to recruit others to their cause.
The compound was low tech; prosecutors said it was composed of a wooden frame, a trailer, plastic tarps and tire walls.
The indictment does not identify any particular terrorist group affiliation but says the group talked of engaging in jihad and dying as martyrs. The indictment says they wanted in particular to target FBI, government or military personnel.
Most terrorism suspects arrested by the FBI are charged with non-terrorism offenses, according to internal bureau data reviewed by The Washington Post, and more domestic terror suspects were arrested last year than those said to be inspired by international terror groups. A senior law enforcement official told The Post recently that it is often "the violence that motivates someone more than any particular ideology."