Hadley resident in ICE custody after guilty plea in UMass bomb threat case


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BELCHERTOWN — A Hadley resident was taken into custody by the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge in Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday.

Abdul Ismail, 27, a citizen of Ghana, pleaded guilty to one count of threatening to commit a crime. Prosecutors alleged that Ismail made bomb threats against the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a UMass student in April.

Ismail was not enrolled as a student or employed at the university. He was visiting a student he had met on the popular dating app Tinder at her campus dormitory in Coolidge Hall, officials said.

Campus police alleged that Ismail told the woman he was visiting that he was a terrorist, that she would be his first victim and that he would blow up her high-rise dorm building.

During an April hearing in Eastern Hampshire District Court, Ismail’s lawyer, Alan Rubin, said Ismail’s remarks may have been misunderstood, and that the prosecution’s case was based on hearsay and few details.

“Beyond that, there is not a shred of evidence that Mr. Ismail was doing anything wrong, that he was a terrorist,” Rubin told a judge in April. “There’s no evidence here that he actually presents a danger.”

Upon accepting Ismail’s plea on Monday, Judge Thomas Estes placed the conviction “on file” for one year, meaning no official sentence will be imposed if Ismail avoids further legal trouble during that year, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office.

Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Andrew Covington asked for conditions of probation to include GPS monitoring and no contact with the woman, which the judge did not impose.

Ismail had been held without right to bail on the charge after being deemed “dangerous” under the state statute.

Ismail was taken into custody by ICE officers later Monday, according to the district attorney’s office. Ismail came to the United States as an asylum seeker from Ghana, Rubin said in court in April.

Immigration officials found that Ismail had a legitimate claim for asylum, and he was hoping to obtain permanent residency in the near future, according to Rubin. With the current charges he’s facing, however, Rubin said that may change.

Ismail was previously arrested by federal immigration agents after crossing into the U.S. illegally in 2013, according to Shawn Neudauer, ICE spokesman for New England.

“At the time of that encounter, he was released on parole while awaiting disposition of his immigration proceedings,” Neudauer wrote in an email. “The most recent conviction in Massachusetts has increased the significance of his case, and he will remain in ICE custody pending a bond hearing before the immigration court.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.