By Carol Cratty
A convicted terrorist was found guilty Thursday in North Carolina of plotting to kill witnesses who testified against him at his terror trial.
Hysen Sherifi, 28, was found guilty in Raleigh on nine counts of conspiring with his brother and a female friend to hire someone to kill the witnesses in retaliation for their 2011 trial testimony. Sherifi directed the plot from behind bars, prosecutors said.
"The trial evidence and testimony proved that from November 2011 through January 2012, Sherifi conspired to pay a hit man to murder and behead three witnesses and three law enforcement officers who testified against him," according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Prosecutors said Sherifi wanted revenge, hoped to get his conviction overturned and wanted to help one of his alleged terrorism conspirators who had not yet gone to trial.
The scheme was foiled as a result of a sting operation. In October 2011, Sherifi asked a fellow inmate in his North Carolina jail how to hire someone to commit the murders, according to testimony. The inmate told his lawyer and federal law enforcement officers about what Sherifi was up to. The government then secretly taped conversations between Sherifi and his fellow inmate in which Sherifi talked about wanting the witnesses killed.
Meanwhile, Sherifi enlisted the help of his brother, Shkumbin Sherifi, and a female friend named Nevine Elshiekh to raise money for a hit man and to relay messages, prosecutors said.
They gave $5,000 to a middleman to deliver to a hit man, but the middleman was working with law enforcement agencies.
As part of the law enforcement sting, staged photos purporting to show that one of the witnesses had been killed were shown to Sherifi, prosecutors said.
Shkumbin Sherifi and Elshiekh were indicted in February. They made plea agreements with the government and testified against Hysen Sherifi at trial.
Hysen Sherifi acted as his own lawyer at trial. According to the Raleigh News Observer, on the last day of his trial Sherifi got into a bit of a confrontation with the judge because he kept talking about religion, saying such things as "all judgment belongs only to Allah."
Sherifi, a native of Kosovo, was found guilty in October 2011 of being part of a North Carolina terrorism ring led by Daniel Patrick Boyd. Sherifi was convicted on multiple charges including conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure people in a foreign country, conspiracy to kill a federal officer, material support for terrorism and federal firearms violations.
According to prosecutors, Sherifi and Boyd had discussed attacking the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia. Sherifi, Boyd and other conspirators were arrested and charged in 2009.
Sherifi had been sentenced to 45 years after his terrorism convictions. As a result of being found guilty in the murder-for-hire scheme, he will face a maximum penalty of life in prison when he's sentenced in February.
Boyd ended up pleading guilty and cooperated with the government in its cases against other conspirators. In February 2011 Boyd was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Two of his sons also pleaded guilty
Three other members of the North Carolina terror ring were convicted at trial. Another suspect remains at large overseas.