WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Army soldier accused of trying to provide support to a terrorist organization in Somalia after he left the military intends to plead guilty in connection with the case, court documents show.
Craig Baxam of Laurel, Md., was arrested in Kenya in late 2011, and prosecutors said he was on his way to neighboring Somalia to join the terrorist group al-Shabab. Baxam was ultimately charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to the group. Baxam’s trial in federal court in Greenbelt, Md., was set to begin Monday, but this week prosecutors filed a court document signaling his intention to plead guilty in the case.
The 1-page document, called an “information,” suggests Baxam will plead guilty to obstruction of justice, destroying records “in contemplation of a federal investigation.” Baxam, 26, destroyed his computer before leaving from Africa and, according to a court document, told FBI agents that he did so because he “did not want anything on his record and it would help him to keep a low profile.”
The information says Baxam destroyed computer records “with the intent to obstruct, influence and impede a terrorism investigation” he believed would be conducted after he left for Somalia. The document does not say what will happen with the terrorism charge, though it will likely be dismissed at a hearing Monday.
Baxam’s lawyer, Linda Moreno, confirmed the document’s filing but said she could not comment on what will happen in court. She said it was not her client’s intent to support terrorism and said what her client did was “a long way from material support” of a terrorist group.
“It’s a different universe,” Moreno said.
Court documents say Baxam served in the Army from 2007 to 2011 and received intelligence training before serving in Iraq and Korea. He converted to Islam shortly before leaving the Army. Months later, he cashed out his savings and left for Africa. He told FBI agents who interviewed him in Kenya that he set out with $600 and $700 and planned to give the money to al-Shabab. Asked what he thought his role would be with al-Shabab, he told FBI agents “he would just be another body there.” He also allegedly said he was “looking for dying with a gun in my hand.”
Baxam’s attorney, however, previously argued in court papers that he was traveling to Somalia because he wanted to go live in a place governed by Islamic law. She argued that the charge against him should be dismissed for a number of reasons, including that he never contacted or attempted to contact al-Shabab. A judge allowed the case to go forward.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)