U.S. judge sentences Islamic State militant to life

U.S. judge sentences Islamic State militant to life

WASHINGTON - A U.S. judge on Friday imposed a lifetime prison sentence on a member of an Islamic State militant group nicknamed The Beatles that beheaded American hostages, at a hearing where one victim s mother told the defendant, I will not hate you. Ellis was in Alexandria, Virginia, for an emotionally charged sentencing hearing for London-born Alexanda Kotey, 38, who pleaded guilty to murdering U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Kayla Mueller and Peter Kassig.

Hostages held by Kotey and his fellow militants nicknamed The Beatles for their British accents. The hearing included testimony from victims' relatives.

Family members described the dread of knowing loved ones were in captivity and the grief they felt in the aftermath of their deaths.

Paula Kassig, Kassig's mother, said to Kotey during the hearing that he will not hate you. It would give my sadness, pain and bitterness too much power over me. I choose to let my heart be broken open, not broken apart. Kotey's lawyer said during the court hearing that Kotey is meeting with some family members of victims in an effort to make amends.

Ellis agreed to keep Kotey detained in Alexandria until July and said that arrangement would facilitate those meetings.

Kotey was a citizen of the United Kingdom, but the British government withdrew his citizenship. His Islamist state cell took journalists and aid workers hostage, tortured them and circulated videotapes of gruesome beheadings on the internet.

Kotey admitted to inflicting torture on hostages, including waterboarding and electric shocks with a stun gun.

Kotey's lawyers had asked the judge to send Kotey not to Supermax prison in Colorado, known as ADX Florence, home to some of the world's most dangerous criminals, including the Mexican drug kingpin, El Chapo.

Ellis didn't want to make any recommendation to the Bureau of Prisons about where Kotey will be sent. That means Kotey is likely to go to ADX Florence, but the federal Bureau of Prisons has yet to decide where to send Kotey.

U.S. authorities had advised British officials that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty. As part of Kotey's plea agreement, the U.S. authorities have agreed to make their best efforts to transfer him to a prison in the United Kingdom after 15 years.