California man who claimed Taliban sympathies, wanted to blow up bank gets 15 years prison

The Associated Press

This photo released by the San Jose Police Department via the San Jose Mercury News shows Matthew Aaron Llaneza, 28, after a 2011 arrest for weapons offenses. Llaneza, a California man with delusions of joining the Taliban, was sentenced Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 to 15 years in federal prison for trying to blow up a bank with a car bomb he thought would go off but was actually made up of inert materials supplied by the FBI. U.S. District Judge Virginia Gonzalez Rogers said she was satisfied that the sentence — spelled out in a plea deal between Llaneza and federal prosecutors — struck a balance between acknowledging the 29-year-old San Jose resident's mental condition and punishing him for actions. (AP Photo/San Jose Police Department via the San Jose Mercury News)

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"Defendants' conduct here was very serious. He knowingly and willfully participated in a plan to blow up a bank building. He created the plan and selected the target. He helped build what he believed to be a large bomb to accomplish the plan. He drove the bomb to the bank building, placed it in a location designed to maximize its destructive force, then attempted to detonate it twice," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Caputo wrote in the memo.

"Had the bomb been real, it would have destroyed at least a portion of the building and easily could have killed or seriously injured innocent bystanders."

Llaneza's defense lawyer, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jerome Matthews, said in a memo of his own that he would not argue with a 15-year sentence during Thursday's hearing even though "it is an open question whether Matthew Llaneza would have participated in a plot to detonate a car bomb had he not been introduced to and guided by an undercover FBI agent."

"Matthew was not a radicalized jihadist but rather a delusional, severely mentally disturbed young man; he had no technical skills to speak of," Matthews wrote. "He had no training or background that would have helped him to accomplish an actual bombing; he was preternaturally suggestible and desirous of being accepted; and, not least, he had no desire to inflict mass casualties."

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