(CN) — Nearly five years after the deadly San Bernardino terror attack, a California man who supplied the rifles used to kill 14 people and wound 22 others was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.
Years after purchasing two high-powered rifles, gun accessories and explosive powder used by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in an Islamic State-inspired attack at a holiday party on Dec. 2, 2015, Enrique Marquez Jr., 28, looked down as he listened to the family members of victims of the attack.
Robert Velasco said he still expects his daughter Yvette to walk through the door after a long trip, nearly five years after she was murdered in the terrorist attack.
“We can still feel her with us. Even though we can’t see her or kiss her,” said Velasco, his voice breaking as he spoke from behind a cloth face mask about his 27-year-old daughter.
Rene Wetzel said she didn’t know how she would survive after her husband Michael was killed.
“He’s just as responsible for the 14 deaths that day as the shooters are,” Wetzel said, adding her children say they don’t ever want to work in an office setting like the one where the attack took place.
Farook and Malik carried out their attack at an employee holiday party at a San Bernardino County building. The couple also left homemade bombs at the building as they continued their rampage. Both were killed in a shootout with police that day.
Marquez — the couple’s neighbor and friend from nearby Riverside — pleaded guilty to supplying material support to terrorists, including guns and explosives, and making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms in 2016. He withdrew his guilty plea in 2019,
This year, Marquez’s attorney argued he only agreed to the plea deal with federal prosecutors out of a moral responsibility to the families and victims of the shooting and wanted to “sacrifice himself on the altar” to avoid a lengthy trial.
U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal oversaw the two-day evidentiary hearing earlier this year where defense attorney John Aquilina brought expert witnesses who testified Marquez was a high-functioning autistic man with superior intellect who met Farook at age 13.
Marquez did not speak during the January 2020 hearing and Bernal later denied the motion.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, Marquez listened as prosecutors painted him as an intelligent man who knew what he was doing when he purchased the weapons and understood what Farook conspired to do — and did nothing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Ann Hanson Sartoris argued Marquez has an IQ higher than most people who are tried in the court. She also said he became radicalized along with Farook.
“He knew better. He portrays himself as easily manipulated,” said Sartoris of Marquez. “He knew better. We knew he knew better. He told friends about it online.”
Marquez wrote on social media forums that he stockpiled weapons and purchased guns to hurt people, said Sartoris.
But Aquilina called his client’s online posts hearsay and said Marquez misplaced his trust during his formative years and did not have any criminal history before he met Farook. He said Marquez’s introduction to Farook “was the beginning of the end.”
Sartoris said Marquez read radical jihadist literature to appease Farook and wrote online after he read the literature he “ascended.” In another forum post, Marquez mentioned some “items” he purchased were in his name and he wanted to retrieve them, referring to the rifles.
Marquez appeared in a white prison jumpsuit and blue face mask. He drummed his fingers on his knuckles as he listened to his attorney describe his childhood and stared forward as family members described in court the wounds of those who were killed during the shooting.
Gregory Clayborn’s daughter, Sierra, was just 27 years old and a county health inspector when she was killed. He said prosecutors should have charged Marquez with murder because Marquez did not try and get the rifles back from Farook.
“Do you see the destruction of your decisions? Do you see how many people you have damaged because of your actions?” Clayborn asked Marquez, who sat just a few feet away . “You’re no victim, you established this. Your plan to was to kill people.”
Bernal sentenced Marquez to 20 years in prison and 15 years of supervised probation after release.
“As atrocious, as horrible as those murders were, Mr. Marquez was legally not responsible for those,” Bernal said, adding that while Marquez is “perhaps morally responsible” it wasn’t the court’s responsibility to judge his morality.
Outside the courthouse, Clayborn said: “He should have gotten all the time that they were supposed to give him.”
Marquez and Farook also discussed a separate terrorist attack on college students at Riverside City College and on a major highway. The pair researched how they could carry out attacks at both locations.
Marquez did not speak during the hearing other than to waive his right to do so.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.