KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – A judge on Monday suspended an immediate ruling on the fate of a 31-year-old man accused of serving as an interpreter and media representative for ISIS.
Benjamin Alan Carpenter, who also uses the name Abu Hamza, was arrested last week on a federal charge of attempting to provide material support and resources to the terrorist group. He’s from Knoxville.
U.S. Judicial Judge Debra Poplin has said she needs to review all of Carpenter’s prosecutor’s and attorney’s documents before deciding whether he will remain behind bars pending a trial in June. His decision will likely come in a few days.
Context:Judge decides to release Knox man accused of helping ISIS recruit fighters
Carpenter was indicted after federal authorities said he provided an English translation of an ISIS video to an FBI agent posing as a terrorist. He faces a 20-year prison sentence if convicted.
Carpenter has been on the FBI watch list since at least 2015 and is on the terrorist no-fly list, testimony said. Monday’s hearing also revealed he had not traveled outside of the States. -United to meet with ISIS operatives.
Deputy Federal Defender Benjamin Sharp said Monday Carpenter was part nerd, part loser, but barely a danger requiring pre-trial detention.
US Assistant Prosecutor Casey Arrowood has described Carpenter as an IS enthusiast who has become increasingly radicalized and popular among terrorist leaders in hopes of recruiting American Muslims.
Arrowood said Carpenter founded a media company – Ahlut-Tawhid Publications – which produces videos and bulletins extolling terrorist causes, treating terrorist leaders like celebrities and beheadings as justice. Arrowood said Carpenter, fluent in Arabic, provided translation services and “communicated regularly” with ISIS leaders and recruiters, often using an encrypted messaging service to avoid detection. He said Carpenter had recently expressed interest in traveling abroad to meet them.
“We’ve known him for five years,” said Arrowood. “It has evolved over time.”
Carpenter spends most of his days on his computer in his bedroom at his mother’s house, where he has now lived for more than two years, Sharp said.
Sharp said the FBI had been investigating Carpenter’s pro-ISIS media firm since at least 2015 – when the agency raided a Virginia house where Carpenter had lived with his girlfriend before their split.
“It’s dishonest to pretend he’s a threat today but not other times,” Sharp told Poplin.
Carpenter’s mother has vowed to shut down her internet, throw away her cell phone and keep a constant eye on her son if Poplin lets him be free, according to testimony. Arrowood countered that Carpenter had engaged in internet chats with ISIS terrorists at his mother’s home and, at least once, on his computer.
“He is not married,” said Arrowood. “He doesn’t have kids. (Carpenter) has a plan to get away.”
Follow Jamie Satterfield on Twitter at @jamiescoop.