Attorney of Heights man accused of supporting ISIS files complaint for FBI messages

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — The attorney for Dearborn Heights resident Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, filed a complaint March 29 in U.S. District Court to make all text messages exchanged with FBI public.

Defense attorney Todd Shanker filed the complaint, claiming the “counsel’s investigation has revealed that the FBI used extraordinary tactics to manipulate Mr. Rayyan during its surveillance of him from May 2015 to February 2016.”

Abu-Rayyan is not facing any terrorism charges for his threats he made in May 2015 to shoot up a church in Detroit in support of ISIS.

He was under FBI surveillance when he posted footage and tweets about ISIS beheading videos on his Twitter account. A photo posted also showed Abu-Rayyan holding a semi-automatic pistol, while making a common ISIS gesture in two others.

A grand jury declined to arraign Abu-Rayyan with terrorism based charges in February.

Abu-Rayyan is being held in jail until his trial for an attempt to carry a concealed weapon and possession of controlled substance, marijuana.

He will face trial at the federal level for the charges at 9 a.m. June 21 before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

Shanker is seeking the release of the remaining text messages between Abu-Rayyan and the undercover FBI agent who posed as a 19-year-old Iraqi Sunni Muslim woman, who also supported ISIS.

“As part of its discovery obligations, the government has turned over the redacted content of some of the conversations between Mr. Rayyan and the undercover employee. But a large amount of information remains undisclosed,” the complaint read.

During the conversations and text messages, the undercover FBI agent and Abu-Rayyan discussed getting married and being depressed.

Undercover agent: “How about you what do you want from this Dunya (temporal world)?”

Abu-Rayyan: “Honestly to get married i think if I get married I will be happy. I’m just lonely sometimes. I want to start a family.”

Undercover agent: “What about the ache (afterlife)”

Abu-Rayyan: “What about you?”

Undercover agent: “? I want to leave this Dunya I don’t want to get married.”

Abu-Rayyan: Inshallah (if God willing) I want to be in. [Redacted] it’s going to be can’t just give up. Shaytan (devil) wants us to be depressed. I know your life must be hard but I think if you found someone who will make you happy your life will change. Its sounds to me your lonely.”

Undercover agent: Yea and I have no desire for life.

“The result of deep longings for female attention in a very shy and awkward young man,” Shanker stated in the complaint. “His verbalization was the result of an effort to keep the attention with hopes of a future. They were not the result of radicalization or representative of terrorist intentions.”

Along with unreleased messages, Shanker is asking that Abu-Rayyan be released on bond until his trial after psychologist Lyle Danuloff found that “he does not exhibit symptoms of any psychological disorder or deficit, and possess a ‘very low’ level of dangerousness,” according to the complaint.

On March 14, Abu-Rayyan, was given a two-year probation sentence for his carrying a concealed weapon attempt.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Craig Strong also said Abu-Rayyan must participate in drug testing and community service as part of his sentencing.

The prosecutor offered Abu-Rayyan the plea deal if he pleaded guilty reducing the carrying a concealed weapons charge to an attempt on Feb. 26.

Abu-Rayyan pleased guilty on Feb. 29 to the charge, canceling the jury trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Whalen ruled Abu-Rayyan is a possible threat to the community if released, saying he was worried about the comments made regarding hearing voices during a detention hearing on Feb. 16.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at