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Man Convicted Of Lying In Terror Probe Denied Early Release

A federal judge has denied compassionate release from prison for a Phoenix man convicted of making false statements to FBI agents and witness tampering during the investigation of a terror attack six years ago in suburban Dallas.

U.S. District Judge John Tuchi cited the prisoner’s refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine when rejecting a claim in an order issued Monday that Abdul Khabir Wahid's continued incarceration leaves him vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Wahid argued that his HIV diagnosis and hypertension make him susceptible to severe or fatal consequences were he to contract the virus in prison. He is serving a 5½- year sentence for convictions stemming from his conduct during the investigation of a 2015 attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. Wahid wasn’t directly involved in the attack, authorities said.

Tuchi concluded that Wahid didn’t present extraordinary and compelling reasons to justify a sentence reduction, noting a decline in COVID-19 cases at the Arizona prison where Wahid is incarcerated and his refusal to take the vaccine.

“Whatever the reasons for his refusal, the court will not allow defendant to create an increased risk to himself — and therefore try to conjure an ‘extraordinary and compelling’ circumstance — by declining a readily available and overwhelmingly significant preventative measure,” Tuchi wrote.

The judge said granting Wahid’s request would reward him for prolonging the risk of infection to himself with a sentence reduction.

The 2015 attack was carried out by two of Wahid’s friends from Phoenix, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed by police after the pair opened fire outside the anti-Islam event. Wahid also testified at the trial of Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, a Phoenix man convicted of conspiring to provide guns to Simpson and Soofi.

Wahid was convicted of falsely portraying to federal agents what transpired when Simpson and Soofi, who were followers of the Islamic State, visited his home two days before the attack. He also was found guilty of witness tampering for urging Soofi’s brother to not talk to FBI agents in the weeks after the attack.

Prosecutors have said Wahid failed to alert authorities that Simpson was obsessed with jihad, or holy war, and had invited Wahid to participate in an attack on a U.S. military base.

In an earlier ruling, Tuchi said Wahid was aware from visits to Soofi and Simpson’s apartment in Phoenix that the pair had watched Islamic State videos of beheadings, possessed assault weapons and that Simpson had expressed a desire to avenge his faith. Still, Tuchi said it wasn’t proven that Wahid intended for Simpson and Soofi to succeed.

Wahid has said if he had tipped off law enforcement about Simpson, he feared Simpson would have known he alerted investigators. Wahid has described himself as a typical American father and said that he isn’t a terrorist.

He is expected to be released from prison in May 2024.

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.