Guilty plea in Wrigleyville bomb plot

Chicago Tribune on April 24, 2012 released the following:

“Man intended to detonate device across from stadium on busy Saturday night

By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune reporter

A Lebanese immigrant pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to placing a backpack he thought contained a powerful explosive device in a trash can on a crowded street near Wrigley Field in September 2010.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 24, turned and blew a kiss to his family in the courtroom when the hearing concluded.

He pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device.

He faces 20 to 30 years in prison under the plea deal in which he agreed to cooperate with government investigators. Sentencing was scheduled for Aug. 15.

The explosive device Hassoun planted was inoperable and had been provided to him by undercover FBI agents. Authorities indicated Hassoun never posed an imminent danger but said he intended to cause mass casualties.

Prosecutors said undercover federal agents repeatedly gave Hassoun opportunities to back out of the plot but that he steadfastly refused. He also chose the busy location that was targeted — at 3540 N. Clark St., they said. The Dave Matthews band played at the nearby ballpark earlier that night so the Wrigleyville neighborhood was teeming with activity.

Hassoun told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman that he worked in a bakery and had completed his freshman year of college at the time he joined the plot.

The investigation started in June 2010 after an informant tipped the FBI to Hassoun’s violent intentions. He hoped to create political instability in Chicago or paralyze the city’s commerce, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman said.

He also hoped to profit from the scheme by being paid for his terrorism work by supporters.

By July 2010, the FBI had the informant introduce Hassoun to an undercover agent posing as a contact. Hassoun indicated he was willing to help in a car bombing or to kill Chicago police officers, authorities said.

Hassoun was given a digital camcorder to videotape potential targets, authorities said. He scouted the area around Wrigley Field, filming potential targets on three dates in August 2010. As he filmed, Hassoun commented on the advantages and risks of various locations, authorities said.

The undercover agents paid Hassoun $2,700 for his work.

At a meeting Sept. 18, 2010, the undercover agents handed over the backpack that they said contained a bomb that could destroy half a city block. As they approached Wrigleyville, an agent told Hassoun he was setting the bomb’s timer for 30 minutes, but when Hassoun said that was too long, the agent set it for about 20 minutes.

Shortly after midnight, Hassoun placed the backpack inside a trash can outside Sluggers, a sports bar near the ballpark, authorities said. He was arrested moments later by the FBI and Chicago police.

Authorities said Hassoun favored the crowded location to maximize casualties.”

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