WACO, Texas - An AWOL soldier remained defiant Friday as a judge sentenced him to life in federal prison for collecting bomb-making materials to carry out what he told authorities would be a massive attack on a Texas restaurant full of Fort Hood troops.
Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, a Muslim, was planning a religious mission seeking justice for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recorded jail conservation with his mother played for jurors at trial.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith allowed Abdo to represent himself at Friday's sentencing after the 22-year-old told the judge last month that he and his attorneys weren't communicating effectively.
Abdo, who was sentenced to two life terms plus additional time, sat in court with a white cloth bound over his mouth and a black mesh covering his hair and face. He has previously been accused of spitting what he thought was HIV-infected blood on agents escorting him.
Referring to Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused in the fatal shooting of 13 people at the Fort Hood military post, Abdo said that he lived in Hasan's shadow despite "efforts to outdo him."
Abdo said he would continue his jihad - an Arabic term for holy war - "until the day the dead are called to account for their deeds."
He spoke in Arabic several times during his allocution, and then translated it for the court.
"I do not ask the court to give me mercy, for Allah is the one that gives me mercy," he said while reading from notes.
A federal jury convicted Abdo in May on six charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when arrested with bomb-making materials last summer at a Fort Hood-area motel.
He also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
There is no parole in the federal prison system.
After the sentencing, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman compared Abdo's plot to recent mass shootings at a movie theatre near Denver and a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.
"In the wake of the tragic events in Colorado and Wisconsin, this is yet another reminder that there are those among us who would use or plan to use violence to advance their twisted agenda," Pitman said.
In a recorded police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack "because I don't appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan." His plan, according to what he told authorities, was to place a bomb in a busy restaurant filled with soldiers, wait outside and shoot anyone who survived - and become a martyr after police killed him.
According to testimony, Abdo told an investigator he didn't plan an attack inside Fort Hood because he didn't believe he would be able to get past security at the gates.
Abdo grew up in the Dallas suburb of Garland and at age 17 decided to follow Islam. He enlisted in the military in 2009, thinking that the service wouldn't conflict with his religious beliefs.
But in an essay that was part of his conscientious objector status application filed in June 2010, Abdo wrote that he reconsidered as he explored Islam further.
Abdo said in his discharge request that other soldiers harassed him about his religion during basic and advanced training. As he neared deployment, he said he studied Islam more closely to learn "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."
Abdo's unit was deployed to Afghanistan without him. He said he would refuse to go even if it resulted in a military charge against him.
His conscientious objector status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography in May 2011. Two months later, during the Fourth of July weekend, Abdo went AWOL from the Kentucky Army post.
In the essay included in the conscientious objector status application, Abdo described the 2009 Fort Hood shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than two dozen wounded as "an act of aggression by a man and not by Islam."
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the Army post shootings. His court-martial is set for later this month at Fort Hood.