Hearing for man accused in Kentucky soldier’s death is once again delayed

Accused terrorist may cut deal with prosecutors in case of deadly attack that killed KY soldier

ELIZABETHTOWN, KY (WAVE) - A suicide bomber, wire taps and a story a decade in the making.

Staff Sgt. Gary Lee Woods, of Lebanon Junction, Kentucky. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Staff Sgt. Gary Lee Woods, of Lebanon Junction, Kentucky. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

One Kentucky mom is furious the alleged terrorist accused of plotting the attack that killed her son may cut a deal with prosecutors and avoid trial.

The terrorist attack happened in Mosul, Iraq in April, 2009.

Staff Sgt. Gary Lee Woods and four other American soldiers tried to stop a truck careening towards a Forward Operating Base carrying 10,000 pounds of explosives.

WAVE 3 News troubleshooter Natalia Martinez has followed this story for years and has learned the sentencing hearing has been delayed once again, adding to the frustration of Wood’s mother, Becky Manning Woods Johnson.

“He gave his life for a lot of people,” Johnson said. “A lot of people.”

She shared a video with WAVE 3 News of her son, serving overseas.

“Hi my name is Sgt. Gary Lee Woods,” he says. “Just wanted to wish all my family a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays and I hope to see you all soon.”

That would be one of the last times she would see her son.

"Instead of getting easier every year, it gets harder every year," Johnson said.

She remembers when Sen. Mitch McConnell told Congress about her son.

“Our nation and my home state of Kentucky has lost a brave and vibrant soldier who pledged his life to protecting others,” McConnell said after Woods’ death.

The Army considers the attack “catastrophic.”

These are the other four soldiers killed alongside Woods. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
These are the other four soldiers killed alongside Woods. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

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The blast left a 60-foot crater in the ground. A picture from the base captured the plume of smoke in the sky.

The investigation spanned from Iraq, to Tunisia and Syria, and later to Canada and New York.

Investigators closed in on Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a Canadian-Iraqi citizen, for allegedly facilitating the terrorists’ travels. He was interviewed by the FBI.

“You tell somebody to pick up a rifle and kill an American and you don’t see anything wrong with that?” the investigator asked in the interrogation video. “If we talked the whole picture, 100 percent of what we have, the picture against you does not get better, it gets worse.”

The FBI files reveal 'Isa’s history of helping terrorists travel to Iraq. They include conversations spoken in code, describing the “company” to refer to Al Qaeda. There’s talk of one of the group’s key players, later identified by investigators as Osama Bin Laden’s second hand man.

Terrorist attacks are referred to as “farming.” For example, 'Isa is credited with writing to a fighter, “When I want to name the brothers, I say the farmers...because they plant metal and harvest metal and flesh.”

In a phone conversation with his mother, 'Isa is accused of telling her “Everyone who’s capable has to stand up and fight and perform jihad -- woman, man, boy, girl, anyone and everyone -- do you understand?”

According to the court documents, once 'Isa heard of an arrest in relation to the bombing, 'Isa tells a fighter, “If this talk is true then that person has told them about me too.”

During the interrogation, 'Isa denies the talks were about an actual plot. He told investigators it was just talks about religion and that he was just showing off.

Since the interrogation interview, numerous hearings have been delayed.

'Isa has recently agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals as part of a plea deal that is still under seal. In exchange, he would receive a 26 year sentence for the lives lost.

“He took five [lives] and he’s getting 26 years,” Johnson said.

The judge has yet to accept the plea.

The most recent sentencing date was set for May, but was changed once again after 'Isa asked not to come to court during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

“There’s the ultimate sacrifice and there’s the ultimate sacrifice,” Johnson said. “When your son gets on that white bus and holds your hand through the window and says, ‘Quit crying mom, I’ll be back,’ you believe him.”

'Isa’s attorneys argue he would be close to 70-years-old when released from prison and that 26 years is an appropriate time to serve for conspiracy.

Prosecutors also urged the judge to sign off on the plea deal, though they acknowledged not all of the five families of the soldiers killed agree with the proposed sentence.

They told the judge they believe the sentence is appropriate because 'Isa did not plot the attack himself, or provide the weapons used. They explained 'Isa was part of a network of conspirators. His role, compared to other conspirators, they said, was relatively minor.

"The defendant committed profoundly serious crimes: he knowingly participated in a conspiracy that sent foreign fighters into Iraq to kill American forces," they wrote. "Following the attacks, the defendant maintained contact with and offered support to jihadist groups who plotted to attack Americans. The defendant posed a real danger to American lives and interests overseas, and accordingly deserves a very serious sentence."

Prosecutors continue to tell the judge that a trial would be a huge undertaking and use of resources, especially while trying to secure the testimonies of witnesses who are located in multiple countries.

If sentenced, 'Isa would serve his time in a prison in the Netherlands.

The next tentative date for the hearing would be in June.

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