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Texas man gets 20 years for trying to contact al Qaeda

By Nick Valencia and Carol Cratty, CNN
updated 10:17 PM EDT, Thu May 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Barry Bujol had been messaging an informant he thought was an al Qaeda recruiter
  • Prosecutors said he had suggested attacking U.S. drone controllers
  • He acted as his own lawyer in a non-jury trial

(CNN) -- A Texas man convicted of seeking now-deceased Yemeni-based cleric Anwar al-Awlaki's advice about raising money for jihadists has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.

Barry Walter Bujol Jr., a 30-year-old Hempstead, Texas, resident and former student at Prairie View A&M University, had been convicted in November of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as an aggravated identity theft charge. Prosecutors said he had been coordinating his plans with a man he thought was a recruiter for AQAP, but who in reality was a confidential source for law enforcement.

Evidence revealed Bujol repeatedly told his contact, "AQAP should attack the human beings essential to operate the UAV's instead of attacking the UAV's themselves" and suggested targets including one in Texas, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Houston.

Prosecutors said Bujol had been in e-mail communication with al-Awlaki, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in September, and had asked his advice on how to raise money for the "mujahideen" without drawing police attntion. He also "inquired about his duty as a Muslim to make 'violent jihad,' " a statement from the U.S. attorney's office said.

Bujol was arrested with a fraudulent ID card while trying to sneak into the port of Houston, where he planned to stow away aboard an Algerian-bound ship and make his way to Yemen to fight for al Qeda, prosecutors said. He acted as his own attorney in a non-jury trial, but did not present witnesses or testify on his own behalf.

"We do not take matters of potential national security lightly," United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson said. "This case and its successful resolution represents (sic) our commitment to making our communities a safer place to live."

Police who searched his apartment found a home-made video on his laptop computer that included images of Osama bin Laden. In the video, which was entered into evidence, Bujol's voice is heard addressing his wife and saying he had left suddenly to pursue jihad and probably would not see her again until the afterlife.

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