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Lawyers: FBI agents promised payments to family of attempted bomber

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
updated 11:27 AM EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
Amine El Khalifi, 29, will be sentenced Friday and is to receive a sentence ranging from 25 to 30 years.
Amine El Khalifi, 29, will be sentenced Friday and is to receive a sentence ranging from 25 to 30 years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Defense lawyers say Moroccan man was offered payments by undercover FBI agents
  • Amine El Khalifi was arrested in February after taking possession of suicide vest, gun
  • El Khalifi is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday

Washington (CNN) -- A Moroccan man who admitted plotting to blow up the U.S. Capitol in a suicide attack was offered "martyrdom payments" for his parents by his undercover FBI handlers, according to the man's lawyers.

Amine El Khalifi, 29, will be sentenced Friday and under the terms of a plea agreement he'll receive a sentence ranging from 25 to 30 years.

In a sentencing memo filed Friday, El Khalifi's lawyers argued for the lower sentence and stressed he received financial support which freed him up to participate in a plot. The document said El Khalifi was financially strapped living in Virginia and worried about sending money home to his parents in Morocco, who had suffered financial reversals.

Two men El Khalifi knew as Hussien and Yusuf "promised to take care of Mr. El Khalifi's family in Morocco by sending them $500 per month to commence after the attack was completed," according to El Khalifi's lawyers. The document also states El Khalifi was given rent and grocery money amounting to at least $5,700 from September 2011 to February 2012.

El Khalifi thought the men could assist him in a terror plot, but they were actually FBI agents.

El Khalifi was arrested on February 17th after he had take possession of what he thought was a suicide vest and a MAC-10 semiautomatic handgun. Both had been rendered inoperable by the FBI.

The defense lawyers contend their client, who pleaded guilty in June, "bears no ill-will against the American people" and believed God had called on him to commit a violent act. "He is relieved that his attempted crime was foiled and that no one was actually injured," according to the court filing. According to the lawyers, the actions of the FBI do not constitute entrapment. However, the lawyers said El Khalifi was "enabled by the FBI, who as part of its 'sting,' helped Mr. El Khalifi with the means, method and motivation for the attack."

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia would not comment on whether the FBI promised El Khalifi "martyrdom payments" as part of its ruse.

However, prosecutors filed their own sentencing memo arguing El Khalifi should get the higher sentence of 30 years. "The defendant, on his own initiative, selected the target and date of the attack, and engaged in surveillance to ensure that his attack caused maximum casualties," the prosecutors wrote.

According to the government, it is very lucky the FBI and not actual extremists came into the picture and started working with El Khalifi. "There is every reason to believe that he would have taken any opportunity he encountered in the future to commit mass murder," said the prosecution's filing. El Khalifi "eventually would have encountered such opportunities outside the presence of undercover FBI agents."

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