MLFA’s Landmark Dismissal: Challenging Material Support of Terrorism Charges

How MLFA challenged and succeeded in marking the first dismissal of material support of terrorism charges in an undercover operation targeting an American Muslim since 9/11.

For more than 20 years, MLFA has defended American Muslims targeted on account for what they said rather than what they did. Eight years ago, the FBI flooded social media with undercover online informants, and today, young Muslims are being targeted based on their speech. And MLFA is ready to stand up for them.

Our approach and preparedness is exemplified by a case completed last year—United States v. Jason Fong. Mr. Fong is a 25 year-old Chinese-American who reverted to Islam in January 2020. At the time, Mr. Fong was a Marine Corps reservist, and prior to reverting, he was active in chat groups discussing the possibility of and preparation for a civil war in the United States. Despite his interest in this subject, the United States had no interest in investigating Mr. Fong until he reverted to Islam.


After he reverted, an investigation into him was immediately opened, and he was targeted by state and federal undercover online operatives. Over the next five months, these operatives sought to persuade Mr. Fong to commit a crime. They tried to get him to aid a terrorist group in Syria to build bombs, but he refused. When it became clear that Mr. Fong just wanted to train for self-defense, a legal activity, he was arrested. Initially, he was held on a state weapons charge. When his attorney succeeded in getting his bail reduced to the normal range, he was arrested on a federal terrorism charge and held without bail. 

When Mr. Fong refused to plead, the government increased the charges and threatened him with 30 years to life. It was at this point that Mr. Fong and his attorney reached out to MLFA. MLFA’s attorneys and legal committee saw what others did not. This case was about more than a recent revert posting objectionable material online. MLFA saw the abusive investigative and charging tactics, the questionable legal basis for the charges, and the exaggeration of the threats. And we were ready to defend Mr. Fong. 

Partnering with his local counsel, MLFA challenged the questionable charging, fought for a fair jury, and put Mr. Fong’s statements concerning Hamas and training in context. Most importantly, MLFA overcame the restrictions the prosecution sought to place on the questioning of the undercover informants and exposed the primary informant’s dubious background and the government’s tactics, which included targeting underage Muslims as part of their investigation.  After the first trial ended in a mistrial, rather than face MLFA in court again, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss all the material support of terrorism charges against Jason Fong in exchange for a plea to a lesser charge. This marked the first dismissal of such charges in an undercover operation targeting an American Muslim since 9/11. A precedent our Criminal Defense Department was proud to set.