Ex Georgia Tech. Student in Terrorism Case Convicted of Thinking? Conspiracy Basics

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on June 10, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A former Georgia Tech student has been found guilty by a judge of "conspiring to provide material support to terrorism in the United States and abroad", reports CNN. However, Syed Haris Ahmed's dad feels his son was convicted based only on what was going on in his mind. CNN reported the father's take:

"He went on to say that Ahmed did not do anything physically, but in the United States, if you think something, you are guilty. Syed Riaz Ahmed said he doesn't believe that his son ever would have carried out illegal acts."

The word conspiracy usually makes people think of furtive planning and scheming, and for that reason people sometimes imagine that conspiracy offenses simply involve groups' plots of one sort or another.

Yes, a criminal conspiracy involves a plan between two or more people to commit a crime, but it does take more than just thinking and talking. Conspiracy crimes much like other offenses, do have an "act" requirement. Now this doesn't mean that the planned crime has to actually get attempted, but to be found guilty of a criminal conspiracy a person needs to have taken an act (not necessarily a criminal act) toward completing the intended crime.

In Ahmed's case, the intended crime would be providing material support to terrorism. His acts in furtherance of the conspiracy? Well, the CNN story gave a few possibilities, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney indicated that Ahmed and alleged co-conspirator Ehsanul Islam Sadequee made "casing videos" of various Washington landmarks. Also, authorities said they also mailed those videos to other co-conspirators, and that Ahmed made a trip to Pakistan in 2005 aiming to enter a terrorist training camp (he was dissuaded by his family).

As an interesting sidenote, Ahmed apparently waived his right to a jury trial so that he could deliver his own closing argument, wherein he "talked about his Muslim faith instead of addressing the evidence against him." He may be facing a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, although his attorney suggests substantially less is merited.

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