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Washington state man gets 12 years for trying to aid militants

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A Washington state man was sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for bomb-making activities and attempting to offer his expertise and other material support to militants, a federal prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Joseph Brice, 23, pleaded guilty in September to the charges after a months-long investigation by local and federal authorities revealed an interest in Islamic militancy and explosives, including a home-made bomb that nearly killed him, according to a plea agreement filed with the U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington.

"One of the sentencing factors is protection of the public and the U.S. felt that was an important factor," Russell Smoot, a federal prosecutor on the case, told Reuters.

Brice was not connected to any Islamic militant groups, just looking for a shared passion for explosives and violence, Smoot said.

In April 2010, paramedics who responded to an emergency call about a firearms accident found Brice gravely injured when an improvised bomb he concocted out of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and other chemicals exploded.

The FBI later determined that from December 2010 to January 2011, Brice had posted at least five videos, several of which showed explosions set to Islamic religious chants. The FBI arrested Brice months later after connecting the footage to Brice and establishing that he had accessed jihadist forums.

FBI officials concluded that Brice was trying to duplicate the intricate bomb used by Timothy McVeigh in his 1995 attack in Oklahoma City, and said he had also praised the 2011 shooting attack in Arizona that wounded then-U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

During the probe, an undercover FBI agent exchanged emails with Brice in which the agent sought advice on bomb detonation. Brice, who is from the eastern Washington city of Clarkston, advised him on proper chemical ratios, architecture, and safety.

"You have to perfect your work," Brice wrote. "There are often many failed detonations before you achieve success. Be careful, this is dangerous work, follow all precautions safely."

Brice's attorney, Matthew Campbell, an appellate lawyer with the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, could not immediately be reached for comment.

"I'm deeply remorseful and just want to go home," the Spokesman-Review newspaper quoted Brice saying at his sentencing in Spokane on Tuesday.

Brice, who earned roughly two years of credit for time served before his sentencing, will be under supervision by the U.S. probation office for the rest of his life.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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