Jury finds suspects in Taos compound guilty of kidnapping and terrorism

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – New Mexico’s first, federal terrorism trial came to a close Tuesday. A jury found Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj and Lucas Morton guilty of kidnapping resulting in death.

The jury also found Morton, and fellow suspect Siraj Wahhaj, guilty of three terrorism-related charges, including conspiracy to murder an officer employee of the United States.

Those charges – and the kidnapping charges – all come with life sentences.

A fifth suspect, Jany Leville, who investigators called the ringleader at one point, pleaded guilty to federal firearms and conspiracy charges earlier this year. She’s facing 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors say all five helped abduct 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj from his mother in Georgia back in 2017. Then, they brought him to the Taos County compound where he eventually died.

His abduction is where this case began, but it took several twists as investigators found out new details about the suspects.

Law enforcement rescued nearly a dozen other malnourished children during the raid back in 2018.

Court documents alleged the group of “Muslim extremists” was training the children to carry out school shootings and other attacks on government officials.

Investigators say they found stockpiled ammunition and other evidence of radicalization.

“The activities and subsequent conviction of these four criminals underscored the continued interest of some U.S.-based violent extremists in self-initiated attack plotting. This investigation highlighted their interest in the preparation for and desire to conduct attacks in the homeland against innocent people. This verdict shows that those who participate in that type of activity will be held accountable for their actions,” said Amy Kaskel, assistant special agent in charge of FBI Albuquerque Division. 

We don’t know yet when all five suspects will be sentenced, but getting to this point in the case was a marathon.

There was a lot of back-and-forth over this case. There was former Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe who first came under fire for waiting to investigate the compound.

One court document revealed the FBI also waited to get involved to rack up more charges.

A Taos judge later faced death threats after ruling all five suspects should be let out of jail under New Mexico state law. But new federal charges kept the group locked up.

KOB 4 also followed the challenges that came with picking a jury. But prosecutors said Tuesday they are thankful for the hard work.

“It’s been a huge effort by many people, state and local and federal, to bring justice and, I think, centering around the death of this one young boy,” said Alexander Uballez, U.S. attorney. 

All five suspects still need to be sentenced. That will take place March 6 and, if needed, March 7.