News & Politics

Federal Judge May Release Muslim Who Pleaded Guilty in Plot to Behead Pamela Geller

(Jane Flavell Collins via AP, File)

Rhode Island’s WPRI reported Wednesday that “a federal judge is seeking alternative proposals to imprisonment for a Warwick man convicted in a terror plot to behead a conservative blogger.” The question that follows is inevitable: if Nicholas Rovinski, 29, a convert to Islam who plotted to murder Pamela Geller for the crime of drawing Muhammad, had plotted instead to kill some prominent leftist such as Linda Sarsour, would there be even the remotest possibility that he could get released early? In today’s overheated, hyper-woke environment, the answer is unfortunately quite clear.

Back in 2015, after Islamic jihadis massacred the cartoonists of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris for drawing cartoons of Muhammad, Pamela Geller and I resolved to put on a Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest in the United States, to show that at least some people would not bow to violent intimidation, and would not bow to those who would take away the freedom of speech at the point of a gun. We held our event on May 3, 2015, in Garland, Texas, northeast of Dallas.

The urgency of standing up against violent threats and bullying was vividly illustrated by the fact that two Muslims from Phoenix drove eight hours to Garland to commit a jihad massacre at our event. And the violence wasn’t over even then. The Islamic State (ISIS) put out a death fatwa against Geller, and three Boston-area Muslims, Rovinski, another convert named Daoud (David) Wright, and Wright’s uncle Usaamah Rahim, began plotting to kill her.

The plot never came off. Rahim got impatient and attacked a Boston police officer instead, and was killed. The plot was uncovered; Wright, the mastermind of the beheading scheme, got 28 years in prison for the plot. Rovinski pleaded guilty to two terrorism conspiracy charges and got fifteen years; as he has cooperated with authorities, he was set to be released in 2028.

But he could be back on the streets within weeks. His lawyers say he has cerebral palsy, hypertension, and depression, and that all these conditions make him more vulnerable to coronavirus. They want him to be granted a “compassionate release.”

Numerous violent offenders have been shown this compassion, which they never showed for their victims or intended victims, but this request is even more absurd than most. Had Rovinski’s plans gone as he had intended, he would cheerfully have participated in a murder. What’s more, he was plotting to murder Pamela Geller for exercising her First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. Releasing him now would send all the wrong signals, suggesting that plotting murder is less important than murder plotters contracting coronavirus, and that the destruction of the freedom of speech and submission to Sharia is not that big a deal, and that when murder plots are directed at conservatives, they just aren’t all that serious.

U.S. District Court Judge William Young even noted that “while Mr. Rovinski makes a strong case for compassionate release, he has served but a small portion of a fair and just sentence for most severe criminal conduct.” Nevertheless, he directed the attorneys to “advise the Court as to what non-incarceration sanctions might be imposed upon him.”

To their credit, prosecutors opposed the idea that Rovinski could simply be released and monitored electronically, noting that “he may have more serious complications because he suffers from cerebral palsy, but the defendant has not presented extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting this Court to reduce his sentence to time served.” Indeed. And even more importantly, “granting the defendant’s motion would result in the defendant receiving a sentence of barely five years for two terrorism convictions that carried a sentencing guideline range of life.”

Barely five years for an offense that can get you a life sentence. Rovinski is lucky that he didn’t target some revered figure on the left. If he had, antifa would be storming the prison today, and The New York Times and CNN would be running features about how, given the proper circumstances, lynching really isn’t all that bad. But in our increasingly open and unapologetic two-tiered justice system today, all the poor boy did was plot to kill someone The New York Times and CNN hates. So what’s the big deal? The smart money is on young Rovinski, mask no doubt firmly in place (the pieties of our new national religion must be observed, after all), walking out of his prison for good considerably before this long, hot summer is over.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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