Convicted Keys bomb plotter begs for years, not life, in prison

The Stock Island man convicted of plotting to bomb Keys beaches filled with people as a show of loyalty to ISIS suffers from personality disorders that caused him to identify with the Islamic State and seek companionship with its members, his lawyers say.

“He was easy prey for the informants who appealed to his ego and his need for validation,” according to attorneys for Harlem Suarez, 25, who faces life in prison at his sentencing set for April 18 at federal court in Key West.

“As a person with no history of aggression, it is submitted that defendant would not have had the ‘guts’ to blow up a bomb in an area where people might have been harmed,” the attorneys wrote in a motion filed April 1 asking Judge Jose Martinez to sentence Suarez to years rather than the life term available.

Suarez has no criminal history prior to this federal case, in which he was persuaded by government informants to purchase a bomb, and is of low intelligence and incredibly naive and gullible, attorney Richard Della Fera wrote.

While Della Fera doesn’t offer a suggested sentencing range, he lists several recent cases in which people convicted of plotting unsuccessful violent attacks received 12 years as punishment.

Also, the motions state the defense team turned down plea-bargain offers from prosecutors that would have had Suarez facing up to 20 years rather than life only because Suarez’s parents pressured their son not to admit guilt but instead to “read his Bible and have faith in God.”

Suarez’s lawyers say their client’s parents are uneducated, non-English-speaking immigrants with no understanding of the “anti-terror fervor” reported in the American news media, Della Fera wrote. Then again, the lawyer added, Suarez had no one else but his parents to turn to since his incarceration.

On Wednesday, Della Fera filed 35 pages of letters in support of Suarez, largely from neighbors and friends of the family who depict him as a kind, generous young man who wouldn’t hurt or threaten anyone.

“He is my beloved friend and also dated my daughter,” Adrian Torrez wrote. “My whole family knows him and loves him.”

“Perhaps you can consider forgiving him in this error he has made in lack of his maturity,” wrote Ma Lourdes Paricolar of Key West.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen