SoCal jury finds Filipino terror suspect guilty
By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Sept. 26, 2014
GLENDALE (UPDATE) – A jury has spoken in the case of a Filipino accused of terrorism, and they have returned three guilty convictions.
After a week of deliberations, jurors found 25-year-old Ralph DeLeon guilty in three of the five terror-related charges he has been facing.
Jurors found him guilty of:
-conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists;
-conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping or maiming overseas;
-conspiracy to murder “officers and employees” of the United States.
Jurors could not reach a verdict on two other counts.
DeLeon’s co-defendant, Afghanistan-born Sohiel Omar Kabir was also found guilty on four charges.
A conviction in a conspiracy to kill Americans overseas charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Kabir, who was apprehended in Afghanistan, was the alleged ringleader of the terror plot. He allegedly recruited Miguel Santana and Arifeen David Gojali, both of whom had pleaded guilty, with Gojali eventually testifying against DeLeon and Kabir.
The Laguna-born, Catholic-raised DeLeon came to the US as a teenager and converted to Islam around 2010. He met Kabir at a local hookah bar.
Defense lawyers claimed that DeLeon, Santana and Gojali were big talking potheads and were most likely entrapped by an FBI informant.
The three were arrested in November 2012, as they were allegedly leaving the US to carry out the terror plot they had been training for.
While DeLeon’s family has declined to speak about the conviction, Ralph’s father spoke to ABS-CBN North America in 2012, days after the arrest. He described his son then as a very sociable kid, who was active in school and sports.
The elder DeLeon even explained how Ralph went from typical high school student to a devout Muslim.
“Na bigla kami as magulang kasi siempre gusto namin mag pa tuloy ng Catholic kasi nga yun ang kinalakihan niya. But ni-respeto ko basta… I think it started with a simple curiosity nya and then such time he thought mas gusto niya na intindihan niya ng mabuti so he went into it more seriously. So yan lang ang dahilan niya without any regrets I hope. Yung nangyari sa kanya, pati siya nabigla din siya sa lahat,” he said.
It is unknown at this time if DeLeon or Kabir will attempt to appeal the verdict.
Deleon is scheduled to return to court next month, as prosecutors consider retrying the two counts that failed to reach verdicts.
Kabir is expected to be sentenced in February 2015.