Jacksonville, FL - The Jacksonville man charged with supporting terrorists linked to al Qaeda has now pled guilty.
20-year-old Shelton Bell was charged last year with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. WOKV has followed every hearing since the federal indictment was first handed down last July. We were the only station to tell you in December that a plea deal was being drafted.
That deal was made public during Bell’s “change of plea” hearing today. As the judge read through the agreement, Bell fielded his questions with no expression on his face, using simple “yes” and “no” answers.
Bell now admits that, while a teenager, he recruited at least two other people- one a juvenile- to support Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen. The plea agreement I obtained says they conducted “training missions” which included vandalizing a Jacksonville cemetery and using a homemade firing range. Bell and the juvenile traveled to the Middle East with the goal of entering Yemen to join the terrorist organization. He admitted today to the terms of the plea, which state he was “ready to fight, ready to kill others, and ready to die.”
While Bell did not make any threats on American people, he made threats on the American flag and government.
Under the terms of the deal, The US Attorney’s Office will make recommendations for “downward adjustments” in Bell’s sentence, however the length determined is ultimately the discretion of the District Judge, who must also make the final decision to accept Bell’s plea. The Judge who presided over today’s hearing will recommend the plea be adopted. Bell is also waiving his right to appeal the sentence he’s given except in the case of a few listed exceptions, like that the sentence violates maximum penalty guidelines.
The agreement also says the US Attorney’s Office is agreeing not to pursue any other federal criminal offenses that may exist.
Bell faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for each of the two counts against him. He also faces a $250,000 fine for each count and an undetermined period of supervised release following prison that could last for life. The sentencing date has not yet been set.
Both attorneys in this case declined further comment following the hearing.