SANTA ANA, CALIF. Two men accused of plotting behind prison walls to launch attacks on military sites, synagogues and other targets in 2005 pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring to levy war against the U.S.
Kevin James, 31, and Levar Haley Washington, 28, pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges. Washington also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to further that conspiracy.
Authorities say James, Washington and two others were part of a California prison gang cell of radical Muslims planning attacks in the Los Angeles area.
"Homegrown terrorism remains a grave concern to the security of our country, and this cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11," Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing told reporters at a news conference after the two men entered their pleas.
Prosecutors say James even had a news release prepared to send out after an attack.
"This incident is the first in a series of incidents to come in a plight to defend and propagate traditional Islam in its purity," James is accused of writing. "We are not extremists, radicals or terrorists. We are only servants of Allah."
The plotters were within weeks of being able to carry out an attack when they were uncovered in July 2005 by police investigating a string of gas station robberies, Torrance Police Chief John Neu said. Authorities said the men committed about 10 holdups to finance the attacks.
James faces as many as 20 years in prison when he is sentenced. Washington faces as many as 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years to life for the firearms offense when he is sentenced. Prosecutors said Washington used a shotgun to rob a Torrance gas station on July 4, 2005.
Also indicted in the case were Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana. Samana is a Pakistani national, while the others are U.S.-born Muslim converts.