The suspected Islamic State sympathizer arrested last week in Grays Harbor County has a history of mental illness and was jailed in the past on charges of harassment and assault, according to court records from Illinois and Alaska.
Daniel Seth Franey, 33, now faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted of handling firearms in violation of an Illinois protective order that his former partner filed against him.
“In the past, Daniel has been abusive physically and emotionally during the entire relationship,” his former partner wrote to renew the order in March 2014 after Franey phoned her at work and told her he wished she was dead.
The court records shed new light on a volatile former soldier who drew the attention of the FBI by telling acquaintances in Montesano of his affinity for the radical extremists in the Islamic State.
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In one instance, an acquaintance chased Franey off his porch with a shotgun after Franey reportedly insisted the man should swear allegiance to the Islamic State and fly one of its black flags, according to court records.
On other occasions, he allegedly said he wanted to kill Marines, soldiers and police officers.
“We’re going to be cutting cops heads off,” he reportedly told an acquaintance in Grays Harbor County last year.
Now Franey is one of about 80 Americans who have been charged in court with offenses related to alleged support for the Islamic State, according to the George Washington University Program on Extremism.
Those offenses run the gamut from people who’ve expressed support online for the Islamic State and been accused of soliciting threats against law enforcement officers to others who’ve taken steps to join extremists in Syria and Iraq.
The Islamic State is known for recruiting Westerners on social media, and Franey’s Facebook account suggests he was open to its message. He frequently posted memes critical of Islamic State enemies, such as the U.S. military, France, Iran and Russia.
Very rarely do you hear of someone who’s literally being chased off the front porch with a shotgun.
Seamus Hughes of George Washington University
Many of the messages showed victims of bombing in Syria; some espoused Islamic State values discouraging women from posting images of themselves on social media. They contrasted with his posts from several years ago, which mostly featured images of children and wildlife.
Franey is an unusual character among people accused of supporting the Islamic State, said Seamus Hughes, who has been studying cases for an “ISIS in America” project at George Washington University.
For one thing, he’s older than most suspects, whose average age is 26.
It’s also rare to see a former U.S. military service member express support for the Islamic State. Hughes read the criminal complaint against Franey and was surprised by how open he was in declaring his affinity for the group.
Five acquaintances in Grays Harbor County told the FBI about unusual interactions with Franey in which he allegedly advocated violence against law enforcement or support for the Islamic State.
“It is weird how overt he was in his violent words,” Hughes said. “Very rarely do you hear of someone who’s literally being chased off the front porch with a shotgun.”
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Seattle typically has 75 to100 open inquiries into reported extremists in the Northwest at any one time, officials have said.
A spokeswoman declined to say how many people in the region are being monitored for suspected ties with the Islamic State.
The extremists the agency investigated include people supporting Islamic radicals, so-called sovereign citizens who reject government authority and hard-core environmental activists.
Recent arrests include Schuyler Pyatte Barbeau, a so-called sovereign citizen in Stevens County who was arrested in December on firearms related charges.
In 2011, the task force arrested two Islamic extremists in a plot to attack a military recruiting office in Seattle. The defendents, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh, received sentences of 18 and 17 years in prison on terrorism-related charges.
Hughes’ research shows that more than half of suspected Islamic State supporters in custody were arrested after undercover investigations.
That’s what happened with Franey, who allegedly illegally handled automatic weapons during staged gun sales with an undercover agent posing as a black-market arms dealer.
About 80 Americans have been charged with ISIS-related activities. Most cases resulted from undercover investigations.
Agents’ descriptions of Franey suggest he suspected he was under law enforcement surveillance. On several occasions, he asked the undercover agent whether he worked for the government.
Franey was in the Army from 2002 to 2008 with air defense artillery units in Texas and in South Korea. He told federal agents he was a deserter, and the FBI’s review of his military records supported that description.
The News Tribune filed a Freedom of Information Act request for his military records but has yet to receive the documents.
Court records show Franey was convicted of fourth-degree assault, harassment, criminal trespassing and making a false report in December 2006 in southern Alaska.
His former romantic partner, with whom he had several children, wrote that Franey was hospitalized for mental health issues in June 2009. She wrote that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with manic psychotic tendencies.
More recently, Franey reportedly lived in Grays Harbor County working as a fisherman. He lived with another woman and their children.
His court-appointed attorney urged a federal magistrate judge to release Franey from custody, citing his care for his family in Montesano and his hard work as a fisherman.
The magistrate judge rejected that request.
Officers who raided Franey’ home last week found a note on his refrigerator addressed to them, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Greenberg said in court this week.
It allegedly described more threats against police.