Alexanda Kotey appeared in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday and pleaded guilty to all eight counts in the indictment, which include charges like conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, hostage taking resulting in death and conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in death.
Kotey, 37, faces life without the possibility of parole when he is sentenced by Judge T.S. Ellis III on March 4, 2022.
During the two-hour plea hearing, Kotey stood before the judge wearing a hunter green jumpsuit and admitted to his role that resulted in the deaths of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and American aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, as well as British and Japanese nationals.
Fitzpatrick said that Kotey, Mohammed Emwazi and El Shafee Elsheikh had been friends since a “young age.” Elsheikh and Kotey joined together for a protest in London on the 10th anniversary of September 11 calling for the release of Muslim prisoners who were held at Guantanamo Bay. During that protest, they were detained and became known by the police, Fitzpatrick said.
Kotey came to the court Thursday with a written summary of his actions that dated back to when he had left the United Kingdom and traveled to Syria with Emwazi in 2012.
Kotey and Elsheikh, now 33, who were known as “the Beatles” because of their British accents, had their United Kingdom citizenships revoked for joining ISIS and becoming a national security threat.
Emwazi was killed in a 2015 drone strike and Kotey and Elsheikh were detained in January 2018.
The parents, siblings and other relatives of all the American victims were in court for the plea hearing Thursday and are expected to give impact statements at Kotey’s sentencing.
In remarks following the hearing, Diane Foley, the mother of James Foley, praised those who were involved with the investigation and prosecution of Kotey.
“This accountability is essential for anyone who kidnaps or unjustly detains Americans abroad, if our country ever wishes to deter hostage-taking,” she said.
Foley also urged the US government “to prioritize the return of all US nationals kidnapped or wrongfully detained abroad” and further called on “President Biden, our US Congress and all Americans to demand that our country protect and assist any innocent US national held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.”
In that same interview, Elsheikh said he had been involved in ransom negotiations and apologized for his role. Kotey declined to offer an apology.
The charges against them carry a maximum sentence of death, but in August 2020 then-Attorney General William Barr took that option off the table in order to secure their extradition and prosecute them in the US with evidence the UK had gathered against them.
Attorneys for Elsheikh were also present for the plea hearing Thursday and declined to comment. Elsheikh’s case is still pending.
After Kotey serves 15 years of his expected sentence, he is expected be transferred to the UK for prosecution there.