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Terror sentence hearing delayed

By Peter J. Sampson, The Record (Hackensack N.J.) –

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Next week’s sentencing of two North Jersey men convicted of plotting to join an armed Islamic group in Somalia to wage holy war against non-Muslims was adjourned Friday without a new date.

A courtroom deputy for U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise said the postponement was granted at the request of attorneys for Mohamed Alessa, 22, of North Bergen and Carlos Almonte, 25, of Elmwood Park.

The two men face up to life in prison after admitting in March 2011 that they planned to join al-Shabaab, a militant Islamic group in Somalia with ties to al-Qaida, in a conspiracy to kill non-Muslims overseas.

Alessa is a Palestinian-American, born in Jersey City, and a citizen of Jordan. His attorney visited Jordan in December to meet with family members and other witnesses in preparation for the sentencing hearing that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

The attorney, Stanley L. Cohen, said in a recent court filing that he needed more time to submit reports by a psychological expert and an expert on young Muslims in America.

Alessa and Almonte traveled to Jordan in 2007 in what Almonte allegedly told an undercover officer was a failed bid to be recruited as Mujahedeen fighters, according to their arrest complaint.

Almonte was born in the Dominican Republic and converted to Islam after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.

The two men became radicalized watching videos on the Internet and listening to recorded lectures promoting violence against the United States, authorities said.

FBI agents arrested the men on June 5, 2010, at John F. Kennedy International Airport as they were about to board separate planes to Egypt on the first leg of their trip.

During the probe, an undercover New York City police officer recorded the men talking about killing and beheading Americans and sending them home in body bags. In one recording, Alessa allegedly said he would start killing non-believers in the United States if he was unable to do it abroad.

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