An Amateur vs. ISIS: A Car Salesman Investigates and Ends Up in Prison

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But after checking with experts, a reporters resolved that Mr. Lopez was articulate not to a real, red-bearded Mr. Shishani, though to an impostor. The tangible commander did not pronounce smooth English, and a denunciation overheard in a credentials of Skype calls was not Chechen, as a impostor claimed, though Kurdish. His mixed Twitter accounts had an escapade tone; he once posted a “Simpsons” animation about a Islamic State.

“It’s really a fake,” Joanna Paraszczuk, a British publisher and researcher who marks a Chechens fighting in Syria, pronounced by email. She pronounced a same male had hoodwinked an Australian radio hire into interviewing him though after certified that he was not a ISIS commander, though a Kurdish newcomer to Scandinavia.

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Images of approach messages between Mr. Lopez and a Twitter user claiming to be Mr. Shishani.

Credit
Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

The man’s ground seemed to be money: He asked Mr. Lopez to move a release to Sweden, presumably to be forwarded to Syria.

When a Times reporters told Mr. Lopez they did not trust he was traffic with a genuine Islamic State commander, he grew angry. He was conference identical doubt from a F.B.I., according to email exchanges with Jeffrey A. Reising, a comparison counterterrorism deputy formed in Wilmington, Del.

From a emails, it appears that Mr. Reising was exploring Mr. Lopez’s contacts even as he attempted to convince him to disentangle from a online jihadist world. But Mr. Lopez connected with a second Twitter user claiming to be an Islamic State figure who could get American hostages released, and Mr. Lopez attempted to hit several hostages’ families. At slightest one of them complained to a F.B.I.

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Convinced that he could save lives, Mr. Lopez brushed off Mr. Reising’s warnings. He wrote dozens of emails to a F.B.I., some proposing that he speak to a bureau’s executive or even to President Obama. He focused on a box of Kayla Mueller, a 26-year-old American assist workman being hold by a Islamic State. His online contacts had suggested that she competence be freed.

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Emails between Mr. Lopez and Jeffrey A. Reising of a F.B.I. about Kayla Mueller, an Islamic State hostage. Mr. Lopez, who sent dozens of messages to a agency, was arrested shortly after this exchange.

Despite his doubts about Mr. Lopez’s exploits, Mr. Reising seemed to trust he competence have stumbled opposite useful information. “Can we yield all hit information for a chairman on that chat?” he wrote to Mr. Lopez on Feb. 4, 2015, referring to an sell with a supposed Islamic State representative.

Near midnight, Mr. Lopez excitedly emailed a F.B.I. agent. “I wish to move her home alive,” he wrote. “I know we can do it and we will demeanour a PRESIDENT in his eyes and tell him accurately that … Anything else your rowdiness yourself and your in denial!! Good night!”

The sap F.B.I. deputy replied: “Toby….Seriously. Get some sleep.”

When Ms. Mueller was reported killed dual days after in an airstrike, Mr. Lopez was mad and blamed a F.B.I. for not auxiliary with him. His messages to a business grew some-more defiant.

“Any try to detain me will be treated as a antagonistic act,” he wrote to Mr. Reising. By then, agents had been sensitive by a Delaware State Police that Mr. Lopez’s mother, Joyce Lopez, had told them that her son had a shotgun and was in a “poor mental state.” Mrs. Lopez, 78, pronounced recently that she had simply asked either a gun had to be registered.

By Feb. 11, a F.B.I. had had enough. Mrs. Lopez arrived home to find her residence surrounded. “Cars all over a place,” she recalled. “Toby was station there with his hands up. we said, ‘What’s wrong?’”

The authorities had interpreted Mr. Lopez’s exhilarated emails as a “threat to injure” Mr. Reising, a crime with a judgment of adult to 5 years. Mr. Lopez pronounced after that he had threatened usually to display what he deliberate supervision clumsy to a news media. He was sealed up, and sovereign prosecutors shortly sought a justice sequence for a mental health assessment.

‘Your Brother Is Very Sick’

At an initial justice conference in Wilmington, family members urged Mr. Lopez’s open defender, Daniel I. Siegel, to collect a annals of his online contacts, that they suspicion showed his intentions were good. By their account, Mr. Siegel abandoned their pleas. “He only said, ‘Your hermit is really ill and he needs help,’” Ms. Roloff recalled.

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Mr. Lopez pronounced Mr. Siegel never came to see him in a year that followed, as he cycled by a Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan (where he astounded a few terrorism defendants with Arabic phrases); a medical jail in Butner, N.C., (where he played on a softball team); and 3 other facilities.

The initial dual psychological evaluations found that Mr. Lopez was pang from “delusional disorder, showy type.” To Mr. Lopez’s distress, Mr. Siegel did not competition a findings.

A year into Mr. Lopez’s imprisonment, after complaints from his family and reporters’ inquiries, Edson A. Bostic, a arch sovereign open defender in Delaware, took over a case. He fast performed from a family a files documenting Mr. Lopez’s online story and organised for a third psychological assessment.

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An mention from a third mental health analysis of Mr. Lopez during his time in sovereign custody. This analysis was finished by Kirk Heilbrun, a Drexel University psychologist.

Dr. Heilbrun, a Drexel psychologist, announced in his news that if Mr. Lopez had not been articulate with a genuine Mr. Shishani (who was killed final month), afterwards someone posing as a Islamic State commander had pulled off “a clever, detailed, and well-constructed hoax.”

In a matter on Friday, Mr. Bostic called a box “a formidable matter” and praised Mr. Siegel’s record of representing bankrupt clients. But he pronounced a complaints from Mr. Lopez and his family would be investigated. Mr. Siegel did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Now that a charges have been dropped, Mr. Lopez, who missed dual family weddings while in prison, is reconnecting with friends and relatives.

“All over we see those billboards that say, ‘See Something; Say Something,’” pronounced Tana Stevens, Mr. Lopez’s sister. “He attempted to do that. And they fundamentally kidnapped him for 14 months.”

Mr. Lopez pronounced he had consulted lawyers and was deliberation a lawsuit opposite a supervision officials obliged for his incarceration. “If we hadn’t gotten another evaluation, we competence still be sitting down during Butner, with a needle in my arm,” he said. “This was a United States of America, flexing a muscles on me.”

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