CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. -- A New York man facing charges he twice tried to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or another extremist group in Syria needs medical and mental health evaluations, his attorney said Monday, after prosecutors claimed he had threatened to behead his mother last week.
The attorney from the federal public defender’s office spoke at a brief bail hearing in which a judge ordered Elvis Redzepagic held without bail.
The 26-year-old from Commack, New York, was initially charged Saturday with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
LaKeytria Felder said she was still preparing an argument for bail, but indicated it would include requests for her client to receive the medical and mental health evaluations. Attorney Mildred Whalen, who represented him at Saturday’s arraignment, said what Redzepagic “needs is counseling and support, not imprisonment.”
In a memorandum opposing bail, federal prosecutors said that over the past month, Redzepagic engaged in actions reflecting he was a danger to the community, himself, his family and law enforcement authorities. They said his family made two 911 calls to police and that “just last week, the defendant was removed from his home after attempting to cut his tattoos off with a knife and threatening to behead his mother.”
After he was arrested on the terrorism charge on Friday, prosecutors said, he told one of the officers, “I really feel like stabbing you right now.”
Felder did not comment to reporters after Monday’s proceeding. A man answering a phone listed for someone living at Redzepagic’s home refused to comment. It did not appear that any relatives were in court Monday.
Suffolk County Police had arrested Redzepagic on Feb. 2 on marijuana possession charges. Federal authorities said that after his release on those charges, he cooperated with an investigation into his travels.
Redzepagic told authorities after his arrest that he’d become a devout Muslim while in Montenegro, in the Balkans, and believed a cousin was a battalion commander in Syria for ISIS or the extremist group once known as the Nusra Front, according to the court complaint. The latter group now called the Fatah al-Sham Front, and also known at times as Jabhat al-Nusra, is an al-Qaida affiliate.
The complaint said he “was persistent in his efforts” to join the fighting. It said that in July 2015 he went to Turkey intending to travel to Syria, but eventually returned to the United States. He made a second failed attempt at traveling to Syria through Jordan the following year, prosecutors said.
“This defendant made numerous attempts to travel to Syria to wage violent jihad,” U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said, CBS New York reported. “We will continue to track down and prosecute individuals like the defendant before they are able to become foreign fighters or harm the United States and its allies.”
Authorities have prosecuted a number of people accused of trying to join ISIS and other militants in recent years, though in some cases, the accused haven’t actually succeeded in traveling overseas.
CBS New York spoke with a neighbor who said he’s friends with Redzepagic’s brother from high school. He said Redzepagic was known for getting into some trouble in school, but his arrest comes as a surprise.
“No he was never really supporting anything or trying to get other people to support his views or his causes, but I mean who knows,” Perry Notarnicola said.
Other neighbors said they were alarmed to learn of the arrest.
“I can’t believe it’s in your own backyard. It’s just amazing what’s going on in this world now,” Sharon Ross said.