First, he watched the undercover video of Hasan Edmonds casually fiddling with a pop bottle, rubbing his face, and explaining how best to kill 150 of his fellow Illinois National Guard soldiers in Joliet.
Then SFC Thomas Sherman finally had a chance Tuesday to confront Edmonds, 18 months after Edmonds was arrested for helping plot a deadly attack on the Joliet Armory in the name of Islamic State terrorists and betraying the solemn oath he took when he joined the National Guard.
Sherman turned toward Edmonds, 24, in a federal courtroom and told him, “I am so disappointed in you.” He called Edmonds “naive.” He told him ISIL “would have strapped a bomb to your chest.” And finally, he asked Edmonds if he laid awake at night, imagining the soldiers who had once befriended him bloody and dying on the ground.
“You failed, all right?” Sherman said. “We are better than you.”
Moments later, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee sentenced Edmonds to 30 years in prison, sending a “clear and unequivocal message” that members of the armed services who betray their country will be “punished to the utmost extent of the law.” Earlier, he sentenced Edmonds’ cousin, Jonas Edmonds, to 21 years in prison.
Both men pleaded guilty to their role in the plot in December.
The afternoon hearing featured secretly recorded video of Hasan Edmonds discussing the plot, which prosecutors have compared to the deadly attack on Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. On the video, Hasan Edmonds sits in the back seat of a car, wearing a hoodie, glasses and an Air Jordan cap, offering insight about the armory.
He tells the people off-camera that “I’m just trying to brief you guys” and tells them the soldiers’ body armor “can sustain about two slugs” to the center mass, pounding his chest twice for emphasis.
“The third one always . . . always, especially if you have armor piercing rounds, goes through,” Hasan Edmonds said.
Hasan Edmonds told his co-schemers “stripes first, everything next.” He also said, “if it’s possible at all, have a fourth man.” Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kness told the judge that Hasan Edmonds gave them the advice to prevent soldiers from escaping during the attack.
Jonas Edmonds, 30, can also be heard saying the “whole operation” should take no more than seven minutes.
The video was taken as Edmonds and his cousin surveilled the armory with an undercover FBI employee on March 24, 2015. Hasan Edmonds even went inside the armory that day to collect a drill schedule, and it was revealed in court Tuesday that he collected it from Sherman.
Federal prosecutors said they chose not to play portions of the video at the request of the Illinois National Guard, which was concerned about the public release of the information Hasan Edmonds shared.
The attack was to take place after Hasan Edmonds flew overseas to join Islamic State terrorists. He was arrested the next day as he tried to hop a flight to Egypt at Midway Airport. Jonas Edmonds was arrested around the same time.
Jonas Edmonds planned to don his cousin’s National Guard uniform during the attack. At Jonas Edmonds’ sentencing hearing Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas waved Hasan Edmonds’ uniform in front of Lee.
“Thank God the FBI was there to stop him,” the prosecutor said.
Hasan Edmonds made no comment before the judge sentenced him, appearing to sigh and saying simply, “I believe I’ve said everything I need to say.” But his cousin, Jonas, spoke and contradicted his own plea agreement. He admitted he dropped his cousin off at Midway, but he denied he would have attacked the base.
“The person they’re trying to make me into, I’m not that person,” Jonas Edmonds said.
Jonas Edmonds signed a plea deal in December 2015 admitting that he planned to wear his cousin’s uniform during “the planned attack at the National Guard base.”
Hasan Edmonds’ father, Lieukennye Edmonds, later told reporters the cousins were set up by the FBI and would not have attacked the base. Hasan Edmonds followed his father into the Muslim faith, his attorney has said, but Lieukennye Edmonds denounced Tuesday any violence committed in the name of their faith.
“No Muslim, no believer in the creator, is gonna strap on a dynamite vest, is gonna drive a plane into a building,” Lieukennye Edmonds said. “Anyone who plots, plans, schemes, devises to hurt, maim and kill people, that person is not Muslim.”