Millionaire Sentenced to 9 Years for Deadly Bethesda Tunnel Fire

A wealthy stock trader was convicted in the fiery death of a man who was helping him secretly dig tunnels for a nuclear bunker beneath a Maryland home

A wealthy stock trader was sentenced Monday to nine years in prison for his conviction in the fiery death of a man who was helping him secretly dig tunnels for a nuclear bunker beneath a home in Bethesda, Maryland.

Daniel Beckwitt, 28, had faced a maximum of 30 years.

In April, a jury convicted Beckwitt of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the September 2017 death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra.

The judge at the sentencing said the death was unintentional, but Beckwitt's actions that led to the death were criminal.

Beckwitt said he was sorry for what happened, but said he would will not beg for fogiveness or mercy. He asked the victim's family to see him as an "imperfect human being," not a "wicked monster."

Khafra had been digging tunnels for Beckwitt, who claimed they were to protect him from North Korean missiles. During the trial, a prosecutor accused Beckwitt of recklessly endangering Khafra's life and sacrificing safety for secrecy.

Montgomery County prosecutor Marybeth Ayres said Beckett didn't cause the fire that killed Askia Khafra but created the conditions that prevented Khafra from escaping the house, which was filled with piles of garbage.


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Beckwitt went to elaborate lengths to keep the project a secret. Jurors heard that he tried to trick Khafra into thinking they were digging the tunnels in Virginia instead of Maryland by having him don "blackout glasses" before taking him on a long drive. They also were told Beckwitt used internet "spoofing" to make it appear they were digging in Virginia.

Prosecutors said photos of Khafra in the tunnels show he was proud of the work that he was doing. They showed a Google message to Beckwitt in which Khafra asked, "Dude can I please work."

One of Beckwitt's attorneys told jurors the fire was an accident, not a crime. A lawyer for Beckwitt described him as a "very strange young man," yet urged jurors to acquit him of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges over the deadly fire.

Firefighters found Khafra's charred, naked body in the basement, only a few steps from an exit. Prosecutors said extreme hoarding conditions blocked Khafra's escape.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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