Convicted terrorist gets life without parole in Brendan Tevlin killing

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Ali Muhammad Brown now faces aggravated murder charges in Washington state in three Seattle-area slayings.

Three years, 10 months and six days.

That’s how much time had passed between the night Livingston native Brendan Tevlin was gunned down at an intersection in West Orange and Tuesday morning, when the 19-year-old’s admitted killer faced Superior Court Judge Ronald D. Wigler in Newark to finally receive the court’s judgment.

In a sixth-floor courtroom filled with Tevlin’s friends and family, Wigler, the presiding judge of the court’s criminal division in Essex County, handed Ali Muhammad Brown the only sentence state law would allow: life in prison without the possibility of parole.

When he pleaded guilty to all charges on March 6, amid jury selection for his then-looming trial and without any formal agreement with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Brown, 34, became the first person ever convicted of terrorism under state law.

In a post-arrest statement to investigators weeks after Tevlin’s killing, Brown said he had lain in wait at the intersection of Walker Road and Northfield Avenue in search of the perfect target — a lone man without women or children accompanying him — as he sought what he called “vengeance” for innocent lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Iran due to U.S. foreign policy.

Brown admitted shooting Tevlin multiple times when the college student, recently returned on break from the University of Richmond, stopped at the traffic light.

Pushing Tevlin’s body into the passenger seat, Brown drove the teen’s Jeep Liberty to a nearby apartment complex and fled. He was later arrested by West Orange police at a makeshift campsite in the township.

Among the items officers found in his possession were the murder weapon — a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun purchased by Brown’s ex-wife, who later reported it stolen — and a diary in which Brown pledged to “follow the way of the Islamic State.”

During his guilty plea, Brown — who has a terrorism-related federal bank fraud conviction and was on a watchlist at the time of the slaying — freely told the court Tevlin’s wasn’t the only life he’d taken.

“I shot those people in Seattle, Washington, too, if you want to put it on the record,” he said, apparently referring to Leroy Henderson, 30, Ahmed Said, 27, and Dwone Anderson-Young, 23, in whose slayings he’s been charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Authorities have said Brown’s spree of violence began with Henderson’s fatal shooting on April 27, 2014, in the Skyway area near Seattle. After luring Said and Anderson-Young to a nightclub on June 1, investigators said, Brown fatally shot both men in Said’s car, before heading for the East Coast on a Greyhound bus.

Tevlin’s killing reverberated throughout Essex County. In West Orange, frightened residents of the suburban community took law enforcement officials to task for not releasing more information. In Livingston, approximately 3,500 people attended Tevlin’s wake at St. Philomena’s Church. At Seton Hall Preparatory School, the teen’s alma mater, a lacrosse field now bears his name.

In pleading guilty to the terrorism charge, Brown guaranteed he would receive a mandatory life sentence under state law because of Tevlin’s death during the crime.

Brown is already in state custody, serving a 36-year prison sentence for an armed robbery committed in West Orange during the same crime spree. He refused to attend his own trial in that case. 

He’s expected to be sentenced on May 11 for another armed robbery in Point Pleasant Beach, and still faces aggravated murder charges in the three killings in Washington state, where local authorities told The Seattle Times they intend to proceed with their prosecution.

Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

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