Isle soldier who kissed ISIS flag pleads guilty to trying to help group

Isle soldier who kissed ISIS flag pleads guilty to trying to help group

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii-based soldier has admitted to attempting to help the Islamic State group in a first-of-it-kind case in the islands.

Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Kang pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts of aiding and assisting a known terrorist organization.

Kang's attorney said the 35-year-old is agreeing to 25 years in prison along with supervised release of not less than 20 years.

The plea deal and sentence will still have to be reviewed by federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway.

Kenji Price, U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, said in a news conference Wednesday that Kang tried to provide material support to the Islamic State terrorist group, including classified military information, a drone, military equipment and combat fighting training.

During an investigation, Kang met with undercover federal agents he believed were terrorists and pledged his loyalty to ISIS.

He also kissed an Islamic State flag and "expressed an intent" to commit a shooting in Waikiki or Downtown Honolulu.

"This case demonstrates this office's commitment to keeping our community safe," Price said, adding that it's the first type a Hawaii defendant has pleaded guilty to trying to help a terrorist group.

In response to questions about Kang's mental state and his family's statements that he may have had PTSD after several overseas deployments, Price said the soldier's guilty plea "speaks for itself."

"I think those statements (in court) make clear that a violation of the law was committed," Price said.

But Birney Bervar, one of Kang's defense attorneys, said the soldier "was clearly enticed" into saying and doing things he might not have done.

"The law of entrapment is quite complex and difficult for the defense to prove. After a thorough review of the evidence in this case and a review of the law, we're in agreement with Sgt. Kang's decision to enter into a plea agreement," Bervar said.

Bervar added that Kang has "accepted responsibility."

When Kang was arrested in 2017, federal authorities said they believed he was a lone actor.

Kang enlisted in the Army just a few months after graduating from Kaiser High in 2001. He was deployed to Iraq in 2010, and served in Afghanistan in 2014,

A criminal complaint filed in federal court shortly after his arrest said an FBI forensic review of Kang's computer found classified military documents and hundreds of items that referenced ISIS and violence.

It also painted a portrait of a troubled man with a history of making violent statements.

Authorities said that the Army reprimanded Kang several times for "threatening to hurt or kill other service members, and for arguing pro-ISIS views while at work and on-post."

In 2012, his security clearance was revoked because of his behavior, but it was reinstated the following year.

Kang had also expressed sympathy for the gunman in the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, and had said he believed "Hitler was right."

His sentencing is set for Dec. 10.

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