United States v. Van Haften, No. 17-1508 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Van Haften, a Wisconsin native, was caught traveling to Turkey to join ISIS. Van Haften holds several bizarre beliefs and has a vendetta against the government, having been convicted of statutory rape and designated a sex offender. Van Haften pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, 18 U.S.C. 2339B(a)(1). The district court applied the terrorism enhancement (U.S.S.G. 3A1.4) because his crime was “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” After hearing testimony about Van Haften’s delusional beliefs and his willingness to reform, the court gave him a below-guidelines sentence of 10 years. Without the terrorism enhancement, Van Haften’s range would have been 57–71 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting overwhelming evidence that Van Haften sought revenge against the government. While Van Haften’s motivations fluctuated over time and were sometimes incoherent, his actions were not irrational even if his factual predicates were false or absurd. It is unimportant why Van Haften wanted to retaliate against the government; he committed a crime calculated to retaliate against the government. A desire for safety and Islamic fellowship may have contributed his decision, but this was not Van Haften’s sole, or even primary, motivation.