Chicago Man Indicted for Terror Attack Attempt Tells Judge He's Innocent
Sami Samir Hassoun, a 22-year-old Chicago man indicted for allegedly plotting to explode a bomb on a crowded street near the home ballpark of Major League Baseball’s Cubs, pleaded not guilty.
Hassoun entered his plea today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox in Chicago to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage property with an explosive. If convicted, he faces as long as life in prison.
“My client is not a terrorist,” Myron Auerbach, a lawyer for Hassoun, told reporters after the hearing. Hassoun isn’t affiliated with any terrorist organization and has no ability to construct a bomb, the attorney said.
Hassoun was arrested just after midnight on Sept. 19, moments after he placed what he had been told was a time bomb in a trash bin near the team’s stadium in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, prosecutors said. The device, created by FBI agents in Quantico, Virginia, was a fake.
“He wanted to transform the city of Chicago. He wanted to make a statement,” Robert Grant, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Chicago office, told reporters after Hassoun’s first court appearance on Sept. 20.
He intended to “kill as many people as he could” by planting the explosive in a neighborhood full of bars, clubs and restaurants, Grant said.
Hassoun has been in federal custody since his arrest.
He was apprehended three months after he began discussing with a confidential FBI informant his alleged plans to destabilize Chicago, the third-largest U.S. city, through a campaign of terror, prosecutors said in court filings.
Prosecutors said the final moments of that operation involved Hassoun placing a paint can lined with ball bearings and, he believed, explosives and topped with a timer in a trash can near Wrigley Field.
Auerbach said federal agents have more than 100 hours of videotaped surveillance, which he hasn’t yet reviewed. Cox denied Auerbach’s request to extend a Nov. 3 deadline for filing pretrial motions, telling the lawyer he must ask the U.S. district judge assigned to the case, Robert Gettleman.
While Auerbach told reporters his client is “a troubled young man,” who “did not bring anything to the party,” the attorney said it was too early in the case to know whether he would assert the defense that his client was entrapped by government agents.
The case is U.S. v. Hassoun, 10-cr-00773, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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