from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 4:15-cr-10009-JEM-1
ED CARNES, Chief Judge, WILSON, and JORDAN, Circuit Judges.
WILSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
the FBI arrested Harlem Suarez, he had already declared
allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS),
attempted to recruit others to join him in destroying the
United States, and amassed weapons and a bomb in order to
carry out an attack on a Key West beach. After an eight-day
trial, a jury found him guilty of attempting to use a weapon
of mass destruction and attempting to provide material
support to a foreign terrorist organization. He was sentenced
to life in prison without parole. He now appeals, arguing
that there was insufficient evidence for both of his
convictions, and that his sentence violated the Eighth
Amendment and was procedurally and substantively
unreasonable. After review, and with the benefit of oral
argument, we affirm.
March of 2015, Suarez created a Facebook account under the
name "Almlak Benitez." He used it to post ISIS
propaganda, to request help in building bombs, and to invite
others to join him as a brother of the Islamic State. The FBI
received a tip about the Benitez profile and linked the
Benitez profile to Suarez. The FBI then used a confidential
source named "Mohammed" to become Facebook
"friends" with Suarez.
and Mohammed engaged in numerous Facebook, phone, and text
message conversations. During these discussions, Suarez
expressed his intention to attack the United States and his
desire to recruit others to join him. He told Mohammed that
he had already obtained two handguns and a bulletproof vest,
and that he was looking to obtain a long gun. He asked if
Mohammed knew how to make bombs.
and Mohammed also met in person. During one meeting, they
went to a pawn shop in Key West to pick up an AK-47 rifle
that Suarez had ordered. But because Suarez had incorrectly
filled out the paperwork by indicating that he was buying the
gun for someone else, he was not allowed to take possession
of the gun. Afterwards, the pair began to make ISIS
recruitment videos. Suarez dictated the script, which
Mohammed transcribed. Suarez-dressed in a black tactical
vest, a black shirt, a black face mask, and a yellow and
black scarf-read the script while Mohammed recorded.
June, Mohammed introduced Suarez to another undercover FBI
employee, "Shariff," who posed as a member of ISIS.
Shariff claimed that he could supply explosive devices.
Suarez expressed his desire to conduct multiple attacks on
the Fourth of July at crowded locations and to place bombs
under police cars. In July, Suarez delivered two boxes of
galvanized nails, a pre-paid cellphone, a backpack, and $100
to Mohammed in order to have a bomb made. At that time, he
expressed his plan to bury the bomb on a crowded beach and to
detonate it with a cell phone. He also voiced his intention
to place bombs under police cars, in front of police
officers' homes, and in a mall.
thereafter, another undercover FBI employee,
"Omar," called Suarez, posing as the bomb-maker.
They met in person a few days later and spoke in Omar's
car. Suarez asked Omar to teach him how to make a bomb; Omar
replied that he would teach Suarez at some point in the
future. Omar handed the completed "bomb," which was
not actually operable, over to Suarez. They discussed how to
operate the cellphone detonator, and Suarez exited the car
with the bomb. At that point, the FBI arrested Suarez.
post-arrest statements, Suarez told agents that he possessed
three firearms-an AR-15 and two Glock handguns. He admitted
that he had purchased the cellphone, backpack, and nails for
the construction of the bomb, that the cellphone was to
detonate the bomb, and that he planned to bury the device at
the beach in Key West.
jury indicted Suarez on one count of attempting to use a
weapon of mass destruction, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2332a(a)(2) (Count One), and one count of attempting to
provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization,
ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1) (Count
Two). On January 31, 2017, after an eight-day trial, the jury
found him guilty on both counts. The district court sentenced
Suarez to life in prison for the first count and to a
concurrent twenty-year sentence for the second. Suarez timely