US man sentenced to 20 years for airport bomb plot
WICHITA, Kansas — A Kansas man who plotted a suicide bomb attack aimed at causing “maximum carnage” at a Wichita airport was sentenced on Monday to 20 years in prison.
Terry L. Loewen apologized to his family and thanked his attorneys before US District Judge Monti Belot imposed the proposed sentence that came with the plea deal. Loewen stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the judge sentenced him.
The 60-year-old Wichita man pleaded guilty in June to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
“Here in the heartland, terrorism will never shake our faith in the things this country stands for — freedom, fairness and opportunity,” US Attorney Barry Grissom said afterward in a news release. “We won’t give way to those who would inflict violence on their fellow citizens.”
Loewen made a brief courtroom statement in which he apologized to his wife and his two sons and his extended family.
“I love you all and I realize the pain and suffering I caused you is enormous … I do not ask for forgiveness because I deserve none,” he said.
Prosecutors told the court that the government believed the proposed 20-year sentence was appropriate given Loewen’s age and health condition.
His attorney, Tim Henry, asked Belot to recommend Loewen be incarcerated in a federal prison as close to his family as possible, adding he has been a “model inmate” in jail and does not need to be in a maximum security prison.
Loewen came to the attention of the FBI in late May 2013, when he became a Facebook friend of an individual who regularly posted information supporting violent jihad, or holy war, court documents show. Authorities said agents became concerned after looking back through Loewen’s own Facebook activities. An online undercover agent contacted him, and offered to introduce him to someone who could help him engage in jihad.
But the plot unraveled on Dec. 13, 2013, when it was revealed to be an elaborate FBI sting operation in which two agents posed as co-conspirators. At the time, Loewen was an avionics technician for Hawker Beechcraft’s facility at Mid-Continent Airport, now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. He was arrested as he tried to use his employee badge on a card reader to bring the fake bomb onto the tarmac.
“Terry Loewen abused his privileged airport access to attempt to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Wichita, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said in the news release.
Loewen’s case is among at least 462 terror crimes associated with groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State that the US government has prosecuted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to security issues.
The federal government has secured convictions in 320 of the 462 terrorism prosecutions that the center analyzed as of July. Acquittals or dismissals came in 31 cases and the remaining 111 cases have yet to be resolved.
Court documents detail Loewen’s conversations with the undercover FBI agent in which he says he read numerous writings by American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by an unmanned US drone in Yemen in 2011. US officials considered al-Awlaki to be an inspirational leader of al-Qaida, and linked him to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting American and Western interests, including the failed 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomb attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner.