A Chicago man was sentenced to 23 years in prison after the FBI, in a terrorism sting operation, provided him with a fake bomb that he tried to detonate near the Chicago Cubs’ ballpark in 2010, U.S. prosecutors said.
Sami Samir Hassoun, 25, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago. He pleaded guilty last year to attempting to use of a weapon of mass destruction and trying to use an explosive to damage or destroy a building used in interstate commerce.
“Hassoun never posed any actual imminent danger,” the office of acting Chicago U.S. Attorney Gary S. Shapiro said yesterday in a statement announcing the sentence. “His guilty plea made clear that he intended to cause mass casualties and rejected opportunities to walk away from the plot.”
The Hassoun case is one of at least three such Federal Bureau of Investigation terrorism-related sting operations that have resulted in the arrests of men in the Chicago area since 2010.
Adel Daoud, 19, of Hillside, Illinois, was arrested in September in a similar FBI-orchestrated plot in which he believed he was going to detonate a bomb outside a downtown Chicago bar.
Indicted on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which is punishable by life imprisonment, and attempting to damage or destroy a building with an explosive, Daoud has pleaded not guilty and is being held in federal custody.
An 18-year-old from Aurora, Illinois, Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, was arrested last month at O’Hare International Airport as he was about to board a flight to Turkey. He had planned to travel on to Syria where he would join an al Qaeda ally and wage war, according to the FBI.
Indicted for attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group and for lying to U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection agents about his travel plans, Tounisi entered a plea of not guilty May 29 and is also being held without bail.
Prosecutors have said Tounisi and Daoud were friends and that Tounisi parted company with Daoud on the bomb plot because he feared it was a sting operation.
Hassoun’s defense lawyers, Matthew Madden and Myron Auerbach, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the sentence.
Prosecutors had asked Gettleman to impose a 30-year term in their May 1 sentencing memorandum.
“Hassoun talked about using terrorism to embarrass and undermine Chicago’s political leadership,” according to the U.S.
Saying their client wasn’t motivated by ideological extremism, Hassoun’s lawyers in their March 18 memorandum sought a sentence of no more than 20 years.
Hassoun was raised in the African nation of Ivory Coast and later lived in Lebanon, witnessing war in both countries before emigrating to the U.S., according to his attorneys.
“Sami’s primary motivation was to impress the informant and the FBI agents and convince them that he was one of them, a consequence of ‘his exposure to chronic untreated trauma as an adolescent,’” his lawyers said, quoting a psychologist’s report.
The case is U.S. v. Hassoun, 10-cr-00773, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).