RIVERSIDE, California — The man who bought two rifles that terrorists used to kill 14 people in a 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.
Enrique Marquez Jr. supplied the weapons that Syed Rizwan Farook and Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, used on Dec. 2, 2015, to open fire on a meeting and holiday gathering of San Bernardino County employees who worked with Farook. Minutes later, a post on a Facebook page associated with Malik pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State terror group. The couple fled and died later that day in a gunbattle with authorities.
Marquez, 28, showed no emotion during the federal court hearing as relatives of the victims asked the judge to give him a lengthy sentence. Gregory Clayborn, whose daughter Sierra was killed, said Marquez should be held responsible for the massacre though he wasn’t the gunman.
“He’s a terrorist, your honor,” Clayborn told the judge. “And if you let him out, he’s going to do it again.”
Prosecutors sought a 25-year sentence for Marquez, arguing he should be held responsible for giving semiautomatic weapons and explosives to Farook though he knew Farook was inspired by violent extremists and had plotted with him years earlier to kill large numbers of people in attacks on a highway and college campus.
Federal prosecutor Melanie Sartoris said Marquez has a high IQ and the mental capacity to understand the likelihood of an attack occurring once he had bought the weapons.
“He knew all along that this would happen,” but he did nothing, she said.
The defense had asked for a five-year term, according to court filings. Defense attorney John Aquilina said his client had been manipulated by Farook since he was 13, when they met as neighbors.
Marquez was desperate to socialize with others and needed to escape abuse at home. He had stopped speaking to Farook years before the attack and didn’t know it was going to happen, Aquilina said. He had bought the guns years earlier.
“Mr. Marquez’s sentence should not be reflective of what happened in San Bernardino,” he said.
In determining the sentence, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal said he took into account that Marquez had called 911 and cooperated with authorities.
“In a legal sense, I cannot punish Mr. Marquez for your loss,” Bernal told the families in his courtroom. “He is not responsible for the murders.”
Several years before the massacre, Marquez and Farook had plotted terrorist attacks on Riverside City College and a highway, State Route 91, federal authorities said.
Marquez abandoned the idea and distanced himself from Farook in 2012 after three other Southern California men were arrested on suspicion of planning to go to Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. Eventually, the three and a fourth man were sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy.
To carry out the shooting, Farook and Malik left their 6-month-old daughter with Farook's mother, saying they were going to a doctor's appointment. Afterward, police chased the pair through San Bernardino, which is 60 miles (97 kilometers) east of Los Angeles. Soon after they were killed, Marquez called 911 to say the shooter was his neighbor and had used his gun.
The next day, Marquez went to a hospital emergency room and was placed in a psychiatric ward. He was later arrested, and in FBI interviews, described his research into terror attacks, purchase of explosives and the plans he had made with Farook, the government said.
Marquez pleaded guilty in 2017 to conspiring with Farook to provide material support to terrorists and making false statements regarding the rifles he had purchased in his name using Farook’s money. He later tried to withdraw his plea to one of the counts, but the request was denied by the court.
Associated Press writer Amy Taxin contributed to this report from Orange County, California.