BOSTON — A man charged with plotting to help the Islamic State group pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy charges, including a plot to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
Nicholas Rovinski, of Warwick, Rhode Island, admitted he conspired with two Massachusetts men to kill Geller and attempted to recruit others to carry out additional violent attacks in the United States. The plots were never carried out.
A plea agreement between Rovinski, 25, and federal prosecutors calls for a sentence of between 15 years and 22 years. Judge William Young set sentencing for March.
Rovinski, who has cerebral palsy and walks with a limp, answered softly when asked by the judge why he decided to plead guilty instead of going to trial.
"I feel that in the interest of myself and the people of the United States I should pay for the crimes that I have committed," he said.
Prosecutors said Rovinski plotted with David Wright, of Everett, and Wright's uncle Usaamah Rahim, of Boston, to kill Geller, who angered Muslims when she organized a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, in May 2015. The contest ended in gunfire, with two Muslim gunmen shot to death by police.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said Rovinski told authorities after his arrest that he, Wright and Rahim had agreed to kill Geller, who's from New York. Siegmann said Rahim later told Wright he wanted to go after "those boys in blue," a reference to police.
Rahim, who had been under surveillance, was shot and killed by authorities on June 2, 2015, after he lunged at them with a knife when they approached him in Boston, prosecutors said. Wright has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Siegmann said that after Rovinski's arrest in June 2015 he sent two letters to Wright in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, talked about beheading people and told Wright he had recruited a fellow inmate to help "take down" the East Coast and the U.S. government.
"Can't wait for them juicy necks," Rovinski wrote, a reference to beheadings, Siegmann said.
Geller called Rovinski a "murderous thug" and said he was right to plead guilty.
"He still deserves the maximum sentence — until he proves he is not a danger to human beings who don't accept his beliefs," she said.
Rovinski's lawyer, William Fick, said Rovinski was a "vulnerable young man" who was "seduced by extremist ideology."
"He has unequivocally renounced violence and renounced terrorism," Fick said after the court hearing.
Siegmann said Islamic State recruiter Junaid Hussain communicated instructions about the plot to kill Geller directly to Rahim from overseas in May 2015. Hussain was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Syria in August 2015.
Rovinski pleaded guilty to two federal charges: conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.