U.S. man who joined al-Qaeda gets 45 years

A federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced a Texas native who had joined al-Qaeda to 45 years in prison following his conviction last fall for conspiracy to murder Americans and providing material support to terrorists.

Muhanad Mahmoud al-Farekh, 32, of Houston was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan of the Eastern District of New York.

Farekh’s case renewed a lengthy debate in the Obama administration over whether it was legally and morally permissible to target and kill a U.S. citizen overseas without a trial. Although U.S. authorities nominated him to be placed on a terrorism kill list, he was captured in Pakistan and eventually brought to the United States for prosecution.

“With the sentence handed down today, al Qaeda terrorist Muhanad Mahmoud Al Farekh is being held accountable for his crimes,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement Tuesday.

Farekh had traveled overseas, joined al-Qaeda and conspired to kill Americans, including through an attack using explosive devices on a remote U.S. military base in Khost, Afghanistan, in 2009, prosecutors said.

Farekh was detained in Pakistan in 2015, transferred to U.S. custody, questioned and then secretly flown to New York to face terrorism charges. In September, he also was convicted of charges of conspiracy to bomb a U.S. facility and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Farekh, who was raised in Dubai, served in al-Qaeda’s external operations unit from 2007 to 2014, prosecutors said.

— Ellen Nakashima

Former Cuomo aide is convicted of bribery

Jurors convicted a former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on federal bribery and fraud charges Tuesday in a trial that further exposed the state capital’s culture of backroom dealmaking.

Joseph Percoco, who was once likened to a brother by the governor, faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and soliciting bribes. Jurors who deliberated off and on for three weeks acquitted Percoco of extortion and one of the bribery charges he had faced.

The jury also convicted one of the business executives charged with paying the bribes, Steven Aiello, an executive at Syracuse-area company Cor Development. A second executive with the company, Joseph Gerardi, was acquitted on all charges.

The jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in the case of a fourth defendant, energy company executive Peter Galbraith Kelly. The U.S. attorney’s office didn’t immediately say whether it would seek a retrial.

Prosecutors said Percoco and his family accepted more than $300,000 in bribes.

— Associated Press