Man pleads guilty to buy­ing ri­fles in San Bernardino at­tack

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Amy Taxin

RIVER­SIDE >> A Cal­i­for­nia man who bought high­pow­ered ri­fles used in the San Bernardino ter­ror at­tack pleaded guilty on Thurs­day as the fa­ther of one of the vic­tims an­grily de­nounced the plea deal as a “slap on the wrist.”

En­rique Mar­quez Jr. ap­peared in fed­eral court in River­side with his hands cuffed and chained to his waist. He sounded choked up af­ter the pros­e­cu­tor de­scribed what he had done.

Mar­quez told the judge he had dropped out of high school and col­lege but un­der­stood the al­le­ga­tions and the con­se­quences of the plea agree­ment with prose­cu­tors that could bring him up to 25 years in prison while spar­ing him a trial.

Gre­gory Clay­born, the fa­ther of one of the peo­ple killed, op­posed the deal in an im­pas­sioned plea to the judge be­fore the hear­ing.

“This man supplied these mur­der­ers with these weapons and he’s go­ing to get a slap on the wrist, your honor,” Clay­born said, his voice crack­ing as he de­scribed the pain of los­ing his 27-yearold daugh­ter Sierra.

“My daugh­ter, she didn’t de­serve this,” he said.

Mar­quez was the only per­son crim­i­nally charged in the De­cem­ber 2015 at­tack that killed 14 peo­ple and wounded 22 oth­ers at a meet­ing of San Bernardino County em­ploy­ees. Hus­band-and-wife as­sailants Syed Rizwan Fa­rook and Tash­feen Ma­lik were killed in a shootout with au­thor­i­ties later that day.

Mar­quez is sched­uled to be sen­tenced by U.S. District Judge Je­sus G. Ber­nal on Aug. 21.

In ad­di­tion to pur­chas­ing the weapons, Mar­quez pleaded guilty to con­spir­ing with Fa­rook to draft ear­lier mass killing plots tar­get­ing a com­mu­nity col­lege and a grid­locked South­ern Cal­i­for­nia free­way. Au­thor­i­ties said the pair re­searched bomb­mak­ing and bought ma­te­ri­als to make ex­plo­sives, but never car­ried out those at­tacks.

In court Thurs­day, rel­a­tives of vic­tims in the San Bernardino at­tack were given tis­sue boxes ahead of the brief hear­ing. While Mar­quez was ques­tioned, one sobbed. An­other closed her eyes.

Af­ter­ward, Clay­born told re­porters he be­lieves Mar­quez knew about the San Bernardino at­tack.

U.S. at­tor­ney Eileen M. Decker said she un­der­stands why vic­tims’ rel­a­tives may feel the sen­tence is in­suf­fi­cient due to the pain they have suf­fered, but ex­plained that she is bound by the law and there is no ev­i­dence that Mar­quez par­tic­i­pated in or had ad­vance knowl­edge of the San Bernardino killings.

But his pur­chase of the weapons and prepa­ra­tions with Fa­rook for the at­tacks they never com­mit­ted laid the foun­da­tion for the 2015 as­sault, she said.

“These chill­ing plans could have in­flicted mass ca­su­al­ties. These plans thank­fully were not ex­e­cuted,” she told re­porters out­side the court­house. “But there are con­nec­tions be­tween their plan­ning in 2011 and 2012 that we be­lieve as­sisted in the hor­ri­ble at­tacks that took place in 2015.”

Prose­cu­tors said Mar­quez ac­knowl­edged be­ing a “straw buyer” when he pur­chased two AR15 ri­fles for Fa­rook that were used years later in the mas­sacre on Fa­rook’s col­leagues at the en­vi­ron­men­tal health ser­vices di­vi­sion in San Bernardino. Prose­cu­tors have said Mar­quez agreed to buy the weapons be­cause the pair feared Fa­rook’s Mid­dle Eastern ap­pear­ance might arouse sus­pi­cion.

Mar­quez also ac­knowl­edged plot­ting with Fa­rook in 2011 and 2012 to at­tack the com­mu­nity col­lege the pair at­tended and a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia free­way. He said he backed out of the plot af­ter four men in the area were ar­rested on ter­ror­ism charges in late 2012, the FBI has said in court doc­u­ments.

Mar­quez and Fa­rook met in 2005 af­ter Mar­quez moved next door to Fa­rook’s fam­ily in River­side, about 55 miles east of Los An­ge­les.

Fa­rook be­gan educating his new friend about his Mus­lim faith and Mar­quez con­verted in 2007.

The FBI said the two be­gan dis­cussing ex­trem­ist views shortly there­after. By late 2011, Mar­quez spent time at Fa­rook’s home read­ing mag­a­zines pub­lished by al-Qaida and study­ing rad­i­cal ma­te­rial on­line, fed­eral of­fi­cials said.

AP FILE PHOTO

This Dec. 21, 2015 court­room file sketch shows En­rique Mar­quez Jr. in fed­eral court in River­side, Calif.

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