Ariz. man accused of fighting with terrorists set free in plea deal

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix man accused of fighting with Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the Middle East reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors this week.

Eric Harroun, a 30-year-old former US Army Soldier, will be set free from federal prison, put on probation for three years, and have to pay a $100 fine, as part of the deal.

A judge in Virginia sealed most details of the plea arrangement, in which Harroun agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge. Other charges, which accused him of working with terrorists and using a weapon of mass destruction, were dropped.

The charges were brought after Harroun posted videos and pictures online of himself with Syrian opposition fighters. The FBI investigated, and accused Harroun of working with a Syrian resistance group with links to Al Qaeda. 

Harroun agreed to speak to agents, who eventually brought him back to the United States, where he was put in federal prison.

During interviews, Harroun told FBI agents he "hated Al Qaeda," and did not know any terrorists working against the U.S.

The plea deal documents say releasing details of the agreement could hurt "ongoing criminal investigations by the US government."

They also say the deal was reached thanks to "substantial assistance" from Harroun.

Under terms of the plea deal, instead of facing life in prison, Harroun's sentence is now "time served."
Bill Roggio, an expert witness in the case, was somewhat surprised by the terms.

''He should have been prosecuted. I don't think it's a good idea for Americans to fight alongside Al Qaeda," Roggio told 3TV. "I just thought he'd get a harsher punishment."

"On the other hand, he turned himself in, and was open about what he was doing," Roggio added.