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Calif. Man Gets 13 Years For Plan To Train Al-Qaida Fighters In Pakistan

By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — A California man was sentenced Monday to 13 years in federal prison for attempting to train al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan for an ambush attack on coalition forces.

Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen, 25, pleaded guilty in December to one count of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter called the crime “a very serious offense that requires a correspondingly long sentence,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Nguyen was arrested in October 2013 after boarding a Mexico-bound bus in Santa Ana, Calif. Authorities said the bus trip was part of his plan to travel from his home in Garden Grove to Pakistan and to re-emerge as Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum. Nguyen planned to train about 30 al-Qaida fighters for a December attack, authorities said.

Beginning in August 2013, Nguyen met with a man he thought was an al-Qaida recruiter but who was actually working with the FBI, according to a plea agreement filed last year. After asking the man if he was a “fellow jihadist,” the court documents said, Nguyen spoke of a recent trip he took to Syria and his desire to “return to jihad, stating that this was what he was born to do.”

During his four months in Syria, the documents said, Nguyen wrote on Facebook that he was fighting alongside the opposition to the Bashar Assad regime and had a “confirmed kill.”

Nguyen later told the man he had also trained fighters in Syria and had “devised a battle plan for his group of fighters,” according to the plea agreement. When he returned to the United States, he said he had offered to train al-Qaida fighters in Syria but was turned down.

Nguyen then made plans to travel to Pakistan with a fake passport so he could spend five or six weeks training fighters for a “guerrilla warfare ambush attack on coalition forces,” the document said.

When Nguyen was arrested at the bus station, authorities said he had the passport, Syrian currency, and a computer hard drive with more than 180 training videos related to shooting firearms.

AFP Photo / Rizwan Tabassum

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Isla Vista Community Growing Weary Of News Media

By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times

ISLA VISTA, Calif. — After three days of intense news coverage, student residents of the University of California, Santa Barbara, community of Isla Vista are growing weary of reporters and TV camera crews who had descended on the coastal town after Friday’s rampage.

By Monday afternoon, several UCSB students had blocked the front windows of I.V. Deli Mart in Isla Vista with white closet doors. The deli is where mass killer Elliot Rodger fatally shot Christopher Michaels-Martinez, bringing to six the number of his victims.

More than a dozen reporters were camped out on Pardall Road in front of the deli — and had been for days, their cameras and lights and gear taking up an entire lane of the street. At one point, police officers showed up to ensure that tensions did not boil over.

The students stared straight-faced at reporters. Some held signs expressing their frustration with the news media:

“OUR TRAGEDY IS NOT YOUR COMMODITY.”

“Remembrance NOT ratings.”

“Stop filming our tears.”

“Let us heal.”

“NEWS CREWS GO HOME!”

Across the street, a crowd gathered to watch. Some students sat on the curb, holding flowers to add to the large memorial in front of the deli. Others went up slowly, adding their tributes to the pile.

Behind the row of reporters, a young man in workout clothes knelt. He buried his face in his arm, his shoulders shaking as he cried.

Another man stepped forward from the crowd, knelt down and put his arm around him. A woman in the crowd went around to the other side and did the same.

Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times/MCT

Pinkberry Co-Founder Gets Seven Years For Beating Homeless Man

By Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The co-founder of frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry was sentenced Friday to a maximum seven years in prison for beating a panhandling homeless man with a tire iron.

A jury found Young Lee, 49, guilty in the June 2011 attack on Donald Bolding. Bolding flashed a tattoo of a stick-figure couple having sex to the people in Lee’s car, which included his fiancee. Lee drove away, then returned to the East Hollywood street with another man who had been in the car. He then beat Bolding, who suffered a broken left forearm and several cuts to the head.

After the jury returned the verdict in November, he was ordered jailed without bail by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry Hall, who declared him a “significant threat to the community” because he had threatened a witness in the case.

During the trial, the prosecutor reminded the jury of the threat to the witness, David Lee.

“Do you remember the moment when David Lee stood on the witness stand and told us he’d been threatened?” Deputy District Attorney Bobby Zoumberakis asked the jury Wednesday during closing arguments.”‘I’m going to cut the throat of your mother, your wife, your daughter and you.’ And remember how the air left the room because you could tell how scared David Lee was?”

Young Lee helped found Pinkberry in 2005, but is no longer involved with the company.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons