Crime & Justice

Gun buyer Marquez in San Bernardino attack pleads not guilty

In this courtroom sketch, Enrique Marquez appears in federal court in Riverside on Dec. 17, 2015.
In this courtroom sketch, Enrique Marquez appears in federal court in Riverside on Dec. 17, 2015.
Bill Robles/AP

Listen to story

Download this story 7MB

Enrique Marquez Jr., the neighbor of the San Bernardino shooters, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the five counts against him, including conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. 

Marquez, 24, appeared in federal court in Riverside with his hands and feet shackled. He answered "not guilty" when asked to enter his plea to the five-count indictment.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, Marquez faces two straw gun purchasing charges and two immigration charges stemming from an alleged sham marriage. 

A jury trial was scheduled for Feb. 23. Marquez could be sent to prison for as long as 50 years if he's convicted on all counts. His lawyer, Young J. Kim, declined to comment after the arraignment.

According to the FBI, during 10 days of interviews Marquez revealed plots he and his friend, Syed Rizwan Farook, discussed in 2011 and 2012 but never carried out to massacre students at a community college and murder motorists on a congested freeway.

The Dec. 30 indictment superseded charges he originally faced when arrested two weeks after the Dec. 2 shootings carried out by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, at a building where Farook's colleagues from the San Bernardino county health department were meeting.

The couple killed 14 people and wounded 22 others before being killed hours later in a dramatic shootout with police.

Authorities said Marquez was not involved in the killings, but that his failure to warn authorities about Farook and his purchase of the guns had deadly consequences.

Marquez and Farook were friends who grew up next door to each other in Riverside. Farook, 28, introduced Marquez to Islam as a teenager a decade ago and indoctrinated him in violent extremism, according to the FBI.

Material support charges are often filed against suspects in counter terrorism cases and routinely result in convictions, according to Kate Corrigan, a defense attorney and former prosecutor. 

"It's a law that captures a whole lot of activity and conduct," said Corrigan, who is representing Muhanad Badawi, an Anaheim man accused of conspiring to provide material support after allegedly purchasing a plane ticket for another man the FBI believes intended to join ISIS.

Badawi and his co-defendant Nader Elhuzayel pleaded not guilty in June. 

While not commenting on Badawi's case, Corrigan said in general she finds the charge of conspiracy to provide material support troublingly "speculative." 

The conspiracy charge against Marquez stems from his interviews with the FBI agents in which he allegedly admitted to planning attacks with Farook in 2011 and 2012.

In addition to the Badawi-Elhuzayel case, federal prosecutors last year charged another young man from Orange County with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. 

Twenty-one-year-old Adam Dandach of Orange pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to provide material support to ISIS by attempting to travel to Syria. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison on that count, and up to 10 additional years for lying on a passport application, according to the Justice Department. His sentencing is set for next Monday.

Since the early 1990s, there have been a handful of politically-inspired terrorist attacks carried out by lone wolves. Instances in which law enforcement thwarted attacks dealt with plots involving groups of people.

1993:  The FBI arrested eight white supremacists for plotting to bomb L.A.'s First African Methodist Episcopal Church, attack the congregation with machine guns and kill prominent black leaders in hopes of starting a race war. Two of the group's leaders were sentenced to eight- and five-year prison terms, respectively.

1999: Buford Furrow, a white supremacist, wounded five people after opening fire in a Granada Hills Jewish daycare center and murdered a mail carrier shortly after. He was sentenced in 2001 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In 2009 he wrote a letter from prison renouncing his past beliefs and expressing "deep remorse" for his crime.

1999:  Ahmed Ressam planned to bomb LAX, but was caught with a car full of explosives at the Canadian border before he could execute the attack.  Ressam was part of a Canadian terrorist cell connected to al-Qaida. He is serving a 37-year prison sentence.

2001: Three months after 9/11, the FBI arrested Irv Rubin, the head of the extremist Jewish Defense League, along with JDL member Earl Krugel, for planning to bomb a mosque in Culver City and the office of Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Vista), who is of Lebanese descent. Rubin died in Nov. 2002 from an apparent suicide attempt while awaiting trial in a federal detention center in L.A. Krugel was sentenced to 20 years, but was murdered in an Arizona federal prison in Nov. 2005.

2002: Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at the counter for Israel’s national airline at LAX,  killing two people in an anti-Israel plot. Hadayet, killed at the scene, was an Egyptian national with a green card living in Irvine. The FBI concluded that he was hoping to influence U.S. policy towards the Palestinians.

2005: The FBI caught four Islamic extremists in Orange County who law enforcement officials said planned attacks against military bases and Jewish synagogues in what became known as the JIS conspiracy.  Each man ultimately entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to prison. 

2013: Anti-government extremist Paul Ciancia opened fire on TSA agents at LAX, killing one. His trial is scheduled to begin later this year.

This story has been updated.