WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — A federal judge in North Carolina ruled Friday that a Raleigh school administrator accused of paying a hit man to behead three witnesses in a terrorism case should be held without bond until her trial.
Nevine Aly Elshiekh made her first court appearance Friday after being arrested last month after FBI agents tracked her to a meeting with a government informant. Agents say the 46-year-old educator provided the names of those to be killed and a $750 down payment toward the first hit.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones Jr. ruled that there was enough evidence for her to stand trial and ordered her held without bail.
Prosecutors say the plot was masterminded by Hysen Sherifi, sentenced last month to 45 years for a conspiracy to attack the Marine base at Quantico, Va.
Also arrested in the beheading plot is Shkumbin Sherifi, the 21-year-old brother of the terror defendant. He was ordered held without bail following a similar hearing last week.
They were taken into custody after a sting operation where prosecutors said the pair paid an FBI informant a total of $5,000. That informant, posing as the hit man's representative, later provided Shkumbin Sherifi a fake photo of what appeared to be the intended victim's severed head.
The cash came from the sale of gold jewelry and other items Elshiekh gave to Shkumbin Sherifi to pawn, according to the FBI.
Elshiekh's lawyer, Charles Swift, said the public should keep an open mind about his client until the full facts are known. She was manipulated by an "evil man," he said, referring to Hysen Sherifi.
"She had no role in picking who would be attacked," Swift said of the government's evidence. "Her role was to take money and messages to people."
Prosecutors said Friday that Elshiekh went to the trial last year and wrote letters to Hysen Sherifi and his codefendants, who were also convicted. He replied and asked for her phone number so he could call her. He also mailed her bracelets he made while in jail, according to the FBI.
Elshiekh divorced in 2010. Hysen Sherifi is married to a woman who lives in his native Kosovo.
Since her arrest, Elshiekh has been on leave from her job as the director of exceptional children at Sterling Montessori Academy, a state-supported charter school in Morrisville.
Elshiekh was born in the United States. Her father, a native of Egypt, is retired as a professor at N.C. State University.
In court Friday, Aly Elshiekh said he chose to immigrate to the United States more than 40 years ago because he believes in the American Dream and democracy.
"I trust the justice system of this country," the father said. "She will be treated fairly."