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Arizona attorney general seeks expansion of terror laws

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich talks during his inauguration Jan. 5, 2015, at the state Capitol in Phoenix. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich talks during his inauguration Jan. 5, 2015, at the state Capitol in Phoenix. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Thursday he wants the Legislature to expand the state’s terrorism laws to include more crimes and add mandatory minimum sentences for terror crimes.

Brnovich said current state law is limited to plots or attacks on government buildings and doesn’t have a mandatory sentence. He wants to add plots or attacks on any publicly accessible building and add a minimum 10-year sentence.

Senate Bill 1350 to put Brnovich’s proposals into law was introduced by Sen. Warren Peterson, R-Gilbert, on Thursday.

Most terror cases are brought by federal prosecutors, but Brnovich said the increase in home-grown terrorism across the nation means state prosecutors need those tools as well.

He pointed to a case last year where a Tucson man plotted to attack a state motor vehicle office in Phoenix. Prosecutors said then 18-year-old Mahin Khan also planned to attack a fitness center but could not be charged with terrorism in that case.

He was sentenced in November to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons in a case brought by state prosecutors. Prosecutors said he wanted to inspire an insurgency in the U.S. to carry out the sort of attacks that occurred in Paris and Brussels and had online exchanges with a person believed to be a member of the Islamic State terror group.

“We work very closely with federal, state and local officials, and that means there are times where we are taking these terrorism cases to state court,” Brnovich said. “It’s time for all of us in law enforcement to be less parochial and to make sure that we are working together and finding the best routes to keeping our community safe.”

Brnovich said Khan could not have been charged with terrorism under state law if he had plotted against a restaurant, church, mosque or synagogue, and all deserve equal protection from terrorism. He said he wanted to be proactive so prosecutors can bring charges that are merited.

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