Agron Abdullahu, who once faced trial alongside the five men charged in May with plotting a paramilitary attack on Fort Dix, could get less than two years in prison at his sentencing next week.
The Kosovo refugee was never accused of being a part of the others' alleged plan to kill U.S. soldiers. Instead, he pleaded guilty last year to what his attorney called a "fairly technical" gun charge of supplying guns to illegal aliens.
But federal prosecutors said yesterday that Abdullahu, 25, deserves a far longer sentence for threatening national security by giving guns to people "who expressed their devotion to jihad."
To bolster their arguments, prosecutors made public for the first time more than 75 pages of conversations secretly recorded by one of two FBI informants who infiltrated the group.
The conversations took place during a 2007 trip Abdullahu made along with four of the Fort Dix defendants to a Poconos firing range. Abdullahu supplied the guns for that trip and another taken a year earlier.
On the tapes, the men laud the accomplishments of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, and discuss their own desire to train as snipers and kill U.S. soldiers.
At one point, they go to a gun store and the informant, who identifies himself as a former Albanian fighter named Besnik, expresses unease.
"You think that we are terrorists?" asks Dritan Duka, one of the Fort Dix defendants.
"Maybe we are terrorists, you don't know," Abdullahu adds, according to the transcript.
Later, Abdullahu says to the informant, "OK, so when you are ready to go to war" and "we got him in."
"Dritan, he's in, bro," Abdullahu says, according to the transcript. "All we have to do is train him now."
But, in other conversations, not referenced in yesterday's filing, Abdullahu told the others that killing civilians would be against Islam, their religion, and attacking Fort Dix would be "crazy."
Prosecutors said that at the shooting range the men "made repeated references to 'jihad' . . . while one member also showed the other how to shoot 'mujahideen style.' "
At that point, they said, Abdullahu should have realized that "certain of his companions viewed their time at the shooting range as not merely amusement, but training for a specific purpose."
Abdullahu, whose family settled in Atlantic County, is a high school dropout who worked as a baker in a grocery store before his arrest.
He pleaded guilty in November; his sentencing has been scheduled for Monday.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for him to face 10 to 18 months in prison. Although prosecutors are asking the judge to go above those guidelines, the crime carries a five-year maximum.
Abdullahu's attorney, Richard Coughlin, said yesterday that he would not comment on the prosecutors' filings. He is scheduled to file his response later this week.
The five remaining Fort Dix defendants - Mohamed Shnewer, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan; Serdar Tatar, a legal U.S. resident born in Turkey; and Cherry Hill brothers Shain, Eljvir and Dritan Duka, all illegal immigrants from the former Yugoslavia - have pleaded not guilty.
Jury selection in their trial is slated to begin in late September, and they face life in prison if convicted. Abdullahu will not testify in their trial, Coughlin has said.
At Abdullahu's guilty plea, Coughlin said his client's conversations would have been theoretical and innocent.
"People say a lot of things when they don't know their every word is being recorded," he said.
On one of the tapes prosecutors cited yesterday, Abdullahu brags about being able to make a bomb.
"You can break into a house and steal stuff and make a bomb," Abdullahu said, according to the transcript. "Yeah, I can break into a Home Depot and make a . . . biggest bomb."
Prosecutors also noted that, shortly after his arrest, Abdullahu scratched graffiti into his jail cell door that depicted an AK-47 assault rifle firing bullets at the letters "FBI."
They first revealed the graffiti in a June court filing to oppose Abdullahu's bail motion. The judge denied him bail.
Prosecutors acknowledged yesterday that Abdullahu stated several times on the tapes that "he would not hurt anyone unless he had no choice."
But they also noted that he never challenged his friends' radical views or refused them access to his guns.
Rather, "Abdullahu tried to identify with the Dukas and Shnewer, and to impress them."
"I like to know everything . . . because in the time we live, at any moment somebody can turn against you," Abdullahu said in the transcript. "And if they turn against me, I wanna, I want to have a fighting chance."