Columbia, Missouri – Jihadi convert Robert Lorenzo Hester, 28, is due to be sentenced on March 4 in Kansas City for attempting to provide material support for ISIS. He pleaded guilty in September to essentially waging war against the United States by plotting to attack an undisclosed military base, mass transportation and oil pipelines. He wanted to kill as many as possible.
Hester joined the military in 2013, but was given a general discharge shortly thereafter because he couldn’t keep up with the rest of the unit due to his inability to learn at the pace required, according to his defense attorneys.
Prosecutors had another view:
“Hester repeatedly glorified violence, and proclaimed his excitement to help ISIS carry out a terrorist attack. Hester thought he was assisting in a plan to cause widespread deaths, doing everything he could to help. Hester did not act in a vacuum. His conduct was part of a larger movement of growing support for ISIS in the United States and abroad.” Prosecutor memorandum (Columbia Tribune)
As a jihadi convert, Hester was exposed to violent videos that the jihadists claimed were showing US military violence toward women and children. Hester became enraged and wanted to create as much destruction as possible.
Hester was actually arrested by federal agents in February of 2017, but has been held at Leavenworth since then as the investigation continued. A charge of first degree property damage and unlawful use of a weapon are still pending in Boone County, when he was arrested in Columbia in 2016 for throwing a knife through the window of a Hy-Vee grocery store and threatening the management with a firearm.
The DOJ reported,
“According to the affidavit, the investigation began when the FBI became aware (through multiple confidential sources) of Hester’s social media posts, in which he expressed animus towards the U.S. and suggested an adherence to radical Islamic ideology and a propensity for violence. Hester used several online aliases, including “Mohammed Junaid Al Amreeki,” “Junaid Muhammad,” “Rabbani Junaid Muhammad,” “Rami Talib” and “Ali Talib Muhammad.”
On Oct. 3, 2016, Hester was arrested by Columbia police officers after an incident in the parking lot of a grocery store. Hester, who appeared to be in an argument with his wife, threw a folded pocket knife through a plate-glass window near the entrance of the store. When store employees confronted Hester, he assumed an aggressive stance and forcefully placed his hand into the diaper bag he was carrying in a manner that appeared to be reaching for a weapon. Police officers later recovered a 9mm handgun from the diaper bag. Hester was in custody until Oct. 13, 2016, when he was released on bond and placed on electronic monitoring.
On Oct. 15, 2016, two days after Hester’s release on bond, an FBI employee using an undercover identity contacted Hester by private message. The FBI employee had accepted a friend request from Hester the day before Hester was arrested for the grocery store incident. They continued to communicate via social media, text and an encrypted messaging app, the affidavit says, during which Hester presented himself as a security threat, stating, for example, that the U.S. government should be “overthrown,” and suggesting “hitting” the government “hard,” while noting that it would not be “a one man job.” Hester identified categories of potential targets for attack and said he wanted a “global jihad.” Hester stated that he was trying to find like-minded people to help. When the undercover employee mentioned “brothers,” Hester said he wanted to meet them.
What followed was a plot to create as many deaths and destruction as possible with this jihadi convert helping.
The sentencing will be on March 4th. Defense attorneys are hoping for a lighter sentence of 15 years, based on Hester’s mental issues. Prosecutors want the maximum penalty.
Hester was willing to purchase nails for pipe bombs, and anything else he could use to “help” with the plans. It’s the “religion of peace” with guns, ammunition, and pipe bombs with shrapnel that worries prosecutors.
Featured photo of Robert Hester: Facebook