KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
A federal judge sentenced a Columbia man Wednesday to nearly 20 years in prison for trying to conspire with terrorists.
Robert Hester Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court in September to charges of trying to supply bomb-making materials to a terrorist group in late 2016. He appeared in federal court in Kansas City on Wednesday, where a judge sentenced him to 19 years and eight months in prison and supervised release for life.
At today's hearing, both Hester and his mother, Melissa Turner, provided statements.
"I would have never guessed in a million years that I would have been here, or he," said Turner on the stand.
According to court documents, Hester was planning to bomb a Kansas City bus station with people he believed were members of ISIS. The individuals were actually undercover law enforcement officers.
In the sentencing, Hester said he is relieved that the undercover agents were with the FBI and not actually ISIS.
Hester also made social media posts that investigators said were sympathetic to terrorists. Federal prosecutors in a memo filed before the hearing recommended the maximum sentence, 20 years in prison.
"Hester did not act in a vacuum," the U.S. attorney's office said. "His conduct was part of a larger movement of growing support for ISIS in the United States and abroad. ISIS depended upon radicalization online, and especially through social media, to bring its persistent threat of violence to the United States and throughout the world."
Hester's defense attorney, Troy Stabenow, said that Hester was brainwashed by the terror group's online propaganda.
"I think this is a situation where a young man got his thoughts twisted around and I can't imagine he would ever do anything like this again," Hester said. "He's a very likable young man and he's very relieved to finally say that he's done with this and to go serve his time"