British ISIS militant involved in Miami-Dade journalist’s beheading pleads guilty, prosecutors say

PINECREST, Fla. – A British ISIS militant involved in the beheading of Steven Sotloff, an American-Israeli journalist who was born in Miami-Dade County, pleaded guilty to all eight counts against him during a U.S. District Court hearing in Alexandria, prosecutors announced on Thursday night.

Alexanda Amon Kotey, 37, of London, was known as Jihadi Ringo. Hostages who noticed his British accent dubbed him and three others as the “Beatles.” Syrian Democratic Forces captured Kotey as he attempted to escape Syria for Turkey on Jan. 24, 2018, and he was in U.S. custody on Oct. 7, 2020, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors said Kotey admitted to his participation in a hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of four American hostages: Sotloff, his colleague James Foley, Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller, who were both aid workers. Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko said he hopes this provides “some measure of justice” to the victims.

“This guilty plea ensures that Kotey will spend the rest of his life in prison for the horrific crimes he has committed,” Lesko said in a statement.

JOURNALISTS KILLED IN SYRIA: ISIS released a video showing the death of Steven Sotloff, left, on Sept. 2, 2014 and James Foley's death on Aug. 19, 2014. (CNN/WMUR)

Sotloff, an avid Miami Heat fan who was the grandson of Holocaust survivors, grew up in Miami-Dade’s village of Pinecrest, where his parents, Arthur and Shirley Sotloff still live. Sotloff, 31, vanished on Aug. 4, 2013, while working in Syria and a video of his murder surfaced in 2014. His parents traveled to Alexandria, just south of Washington, D.C., to attend the hearing.

Kotey admitted to providing support to ISIS from November 2012 to February 2015 by participating “in the seizure, detention and hostage negotiations.” Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh said, “the justice, fairness, and humanity” that Kotey received stands in stark contrast to “the cruelty, inhumanity, and indiscriminate violence” touted by ISIS.

Kotey was involved in the murders of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning and Japanese citizens Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, prosecutors said. Kotey engaged in “physical and psychological violence against hostages,” according to prosecutors. The torture included forcing them to witness other hostages’ beheadings, records show.

The other ISIS “Beatles,” Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John, was killed during a U.S. drone strike in 2015 in Syria, and El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, was caught with Kotey and is in U.S. custody, prosecutors said. The fourth member was not identified but U.S. authorities believe he is in a Turkey prison. Elsheikh is awaiting trial. Kotey’s sentencing is scheduled for March 4, 2022.

Here is the list of Kotey’s 8 charges:

  • One count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking resulting in death;
  • Four counts of hostage-taking resulting in the deaths of the four Americans
  • One count of conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens outside of the United States
  • One count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists resulting in the deaths of U.S., British and Japanese nationals
  • One count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization resulting in the deaths of U.S., British and Japanese nationals.

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About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.