Enrique Marquez Jr. was sentenced Friday, Oct. 23, to 20 years behind bars for supplying the weapons used in the 2015 terrorist shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded.
U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal said he couldn’t hold Marquez legally responsible for the 14 slayings. Authorities have said that Marquez did not know about the plot in advance.
The Riverside resident had been convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and making a false statement on federal firearms-purchase forms: Marquez said the firearms he was buying in 2011 and 2012 were for his use.
Instead, he sold them to neighbor Syed Rizwan Farook as part of an aborted plan to wage attacks on motorists on the 91 Freeway and at Riverside City College, prosecutors said.
By then, Farook had radicalized his longtime friend to Islam.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Sartoris pushed for a 25-year sentence Friday, saying the 28-year-old Marquez is highly intelligent despite claims of a mental illness made in January when he sought to withdraw his admission that he provided the assault-style rifles.
“His IQ is probably higher than anybody’s in the courtroom,” Sartoris said. “He knew better.”
Further, she said in court, the aborted attacks “created the template” for the shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
But Judge Bernal, while describing Marquez’s crimes as “horrific and terrible offenses,” cited mitigating factors such as Marquez’s troubled upbringing and cooperation with the FBI after his 911 call identified Farook as one of the likely attackers.
Defense attorney John N. Aquilina sought a five-year sentence, arguing that Marquez bought the assault-style rifles in his name with the intention of selling them to Farook “to shoot, not to shoot people.”
Aquilina added that the planned attacks in Riverside were actually vague and hypothetical discussions.
The lawyer sought to distance Marquez from Farook, saying they parted ways in 2012 and saw one another only in passing afterward. He initially became friends with Farook at age 13 when Marquez, whom Aquilina said was being verbally abused at home, was desperate for a pal.
“That was the beginning of the end,” the defense lawyer said. “For some reason, 17-year-old Syed Farook took him in.”
Marquez’s conviction represents the first sentencing in a case related to the attack.
“He should have been charged with murder, because that’s what he did when he purchased the guns,” Gregory Clayborn, whose daughter Sierra was killed in the shooting, told the judge. “He knew what the plan was. …
“He’s not an idiot,” Clayborn added. “He’s not a pawn. He’s not a follower. He’s not a sucker. He’s playing you.”
He then stared at Marquez.
“Do you see the destructiveness of this decision you made?” Clayborn said. “You had plenty of time to get these guns away from this guy.”
Marquez did not return the stare.
Rosa Ortiz said that five years after the attack her nephew Kevin Ortiz, who was shot several times, still struggles physically and emotionally.
“Why? Why did you do this?” Ortiz asked Marquez before addressing Bernal.
“I ask you to hold Mr. Marquez accountable,” she said. “Mr. Marquez chose his path of destruction, and my nephew did not.”
Marquez pleaded guilty more than three years ago, but his sentencing was delayed in part by his unsuccessful attempt to withdraw his plea to one of the charges.
Friday, he appeared in a white jumpsuit and a light-blue mask in a courtroom with only 11 people inside because of COVID-19 restrictions. Others watched the proceedings on monitors from a nearby room.
Marquez, who declined to address the court on Friday, has served about five years behind bars, which will count toward his sentence.
On Dec. 2, 2015, Farook, 28, and wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, entered a training meeting and holiday party for his co-workers at the San Bernardino County Division of Environmental Health and sprayed gunfire.
The terrorist couple, Redlands residents, were killed hours later in a gun battle with law enforcement.
The investigation into the crimes led to the discovery that Marquez had helped create a sham marriage to Mariya Chernykh, Farook’s Russian-born sister-in-law, to help her immigrate to the U.S. after she overstayed her visa.
Prosecutors dropped an immigration-fraud charge against Marquez as part of his plea deal.
Chernykh, Farook’s brother Syed Raheel Farook and Raheel’s wife Tatiana all have pleaded guilty to participating in the fraud marriage and await sentencing.
The Farooks’ mother, Rafia Farook, has pleaded guilty to destruction of evidence after shredding a map drawn by Syed Farook for the attack. She has not been sentenced yet, either.
Christopher Grigg, chief of the national security division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, spoke outside court after the hearing:
“On behalf of the United States and all of the law enforcement agencies involved in this effort, we express our sincere condolences to the families, and we hope they understand that what happened almost five years ago will never be forgotten, and we will continue to investigate and we renew our commitment to them and the community to do justice.”
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.