Alaska pair pleads guilty to lying about hit list
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A National Weather Service employee and his British-born wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to domestic terrorism charges of lying to the FBI about a hit list of possible targets who the couple suspected were enemies of Islam.
Paul Rockwood Jr. and his wife, Nadia Rockwood, of King Salmon, Alaska, were charged with lying about the list and making false statements about domestic terrorism during interviews with FBI agents in May.
The FBI alleged that the list had about 15 targets. Its contents were not made public, but officials said none of those targeted lived in Alaska.
Under a plea deal, Paul Rockwood, 35, who worked as a meteorological technician for the weather service, will get eight years in prison, the maximum allowed. His 36-year-old wife, who is five months pregnant, will be allowed to return to the United Kingdom and serve five years of probation there.
Neither was held in custody prior to the hearing.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline did not immediately sign off on the plea deal. He set sentencing for Aug. 23.
Prosecutors alleged that Paul Rockwood, also known as “Bilal,” converted to Islam about a decade ago and began studying the teachings of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has professed hatred for the United States and supports acts of terrorism.
According to court documents, Paul Rockwood converted to Islam in late 2001 or 2002, when the couple lived in Virginia.
“After his conversion, and while residing in Virginia, Rockwood became a strict adherent to the violent Jihad-promoting ideology of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki,” documents said. “This included a personal conviction that it was his religious responsibility to exact revenge by death on anyone who desecrated Islam.”
Federal authorities claimed Rockwood began researching and selecting possible targets for future execution by visiting websites. They alleged that after he moved to Alaska in 2006, he began researching explosive components, construction of remote triggering devices, such as cell phones, and construction of bombs to be delivered by common mail carriers.
Authorities said that in late 2009, he began discussing using mail bombs and possibly killing targets by gunshot to the head. They said that by early this year, he had formalized his list.
Prosecutors said he gave the list of targets to his wife in April, and she carried it with her on a trip to Anchorage, where the FBI obtained it. Officials did not disclose how the FBI got it or how they knew of its existence.
Nadia Rockwood admitted in court that she was aware that her husband wanted to seek revenge and knew the purpose of the list. But when questioned by authorities, she denied delivering the list and instead said it was a book or letter.
When the FBI interviewed her husband, he denied having created the list, its purpose or ever having had a list.
Rockwood will be held in custody until sentencing. Nadia Rockwood, who holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and the U.S., will be released to take care of the couple’s 4-year-old child in Anchorage until her sentencing.
U.S. Attorney for Alaska Karen L. Loeffler said the domestic terrorism case was the first of its kind in Alaska.
“I’m comfortable this is a fair and good result,” she said.
King Salmon is a small community of a few hundred people on the Alaska Peninsula.