A 22-year-old man who allegedly spoke of wanting to assassinate Chicago’s mayor was charged by federal prosecutors with plotting to detonate a bomb near Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Sami Samir Hassoun blamed Richard M. Daley for “weakening” the city’s security and planned to use the attack to drive him from office, according to the complaint against him. He was arrested Sept. 19 by members of the Chicago-area Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“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 appeared before a federal magistrate yesterday. 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, who is identified in an FBI statement as a Lebanese citizen living legally in Chicago, is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and with trying to destroy real property using an explosive. The first charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the second has a top term of as long as five years.
Hassoun discussed the possibility of an assassination attempt on the mayor with the FBI’s confidential source, prosecutors said. The location near Wrigley Field was chosen after Hassoun talked about other plots with the FBI source, including a biological weapons attack at the Richard J. Daley Plaza, the state courthouse forecourt named for the incumbent mayor’s father.
Hassoun hoped he would be paid for a sustained campaign, Grant said. Investigators believe Hassoun acted alone and isn’t affiliated with a terrorist organization, Grant said.
Lance Lewis, a spokesman for Daley, declined to comment. Daley said Sept. 7 that he wouldn’t seek a seventh term as mayor next year.
Hassoun, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and blue canvas slip-on shoes, appeared yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox. The suspect, who was accompanied by Federal Public Defender Dan McLaughlin, wasn’t required to enter a plea. Hassoun told the court he will hire a private lawyer.
Cox scheduled a bail hearing and a so-called probable-cause hearing for Sept. 22. After yesterday’s appearance, Hassoun was remanded to the custody of federal marshals.
Hassoun planted an inert device in a trash can south of Wrigley Field at about 12:10 a.m. on Sept. 19 and was immediately arrested, according to the criminal complaint. The FBI informant had shown Hassoun the device, which appeared to be a bomb, prosecutors said.
The device, concealed in a backpack, had a timer that Hassoun set for 20 minutes, Grant said.
The case is U.S. v. Hassoun, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).