On September 10, just ahead of this year’s 9/11 anniversary, Texas resident Asher Abid Khan finally turned himself in to the U.S. Marshals office in Houston for providing material support to ISIS. He was off to the federal correctional institute known as “Forrest City Medium” in Forrest City, Arkansas, according to court filings.
The 23-year-old University of Houston student had been facing a potential life term in prison when he pleaded guilty to one count related to recruiting fighters for ISIS, including one fellow Texan who died in combat. Instead, he must have felt some relief when, last month, the Ronald Reagan-appointed U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes gave Khan 18 months.
But Khan can’t be making any long-term plans for his post-prison future.
In a highly unusual turn of events, prosecutors with the U.S. Department of Justice, angry about the perceived leniency of the sentence, have taken the judge’s decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This just doesn’t happen. A Houston Chronicle report established that DOJ’s appeal of Judge Hughes’ sentence was a first involving ISIS cases. (More on the eccentric Judge Hughes in a bit).
The outcome of the coming bout will have consequences for the government’s ability to punish and deter future homegrown terrorists like Khan. America’s current and future Islamic extremists, while trying as hard as they can to die for The Cause, might view an 18-month prison stint more as delayed gratification than as wait-just-a-minute deterrent.
Here’s what the fight’s about in a quick nutshell: