The 53-year-old, whose online handle was Theblackflag, was accused of being involved in a terror cell that wanted to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilk, who depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The plot never materialized, authorities said.
Authorities issued an indictment for Damache in 2011 and worked with multiple entities to extradite him to face charges in a civilian court, a move that was counter to President Donald Trump's promise to send terror suspects to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Part of the change of plea deal included dropping a charge of attempted identity theft to facilitate an act of international terrorism. Damashe read a brief statement in court in soft, heavily-accented English, requesting to be assigned to serve his time in a prison in the Northeast where an organization that serves Irish citizens incarcerated overseas had been sending visitors and where he has been taking English classes.
"I am a strong believer of democracy," he said. "Freedom must be earned through struggle." He said he had not practiced jihad in any country and said he urges others to struggle against Arab dictators.
His attorney declined to elaborate after court. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams told the judge that the maximum sentence of 15 years was appropriate, saying it had taken nine years to extradite and prosecute Damache.
"He preyed on vulnerable Americans, people who were lonely, people who were looking to belong," she said, noting the three conspirators he had recruited were a person taking care of an elderly parent, a single mom and a teenager who didn't feel like he belonged.
Prosecutors said Damache sought to recruit light-skinned women and others who did not fit the traditional terrorist profile to wage jihad. His targets included Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane," online; Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, a single mother from Colorado; and Mohammad Hassan Khalid, who at the time was a high school honors student from Maryland. They were all eventually arrested.
Damache married Paulin-Ramirez the day she traveled to Ireland to meet him in 2009. Paulin-Ramirez eventually helped the FBI investigate the terror cell. U.S. District Court Judge Petrese Tucker said she agreed with the maximum sentence for Damache finding him "more culpable" than the others as the person who recruited them and noting that he has trained a child who was only 5 years old in the ways of violent jihad. The child was Paulin-Ramirez's son, whom she had brought with her when she went to Ireland.
LaRose is serving a 10-year prison term. Paulin-Ramirez was sentenced to eight years, and Khalid was sentenced to five years. Both have been released after serving their sentences.