Lebanese man sentenced for planting fake bomb near Chicago's Wrigley Field

Reuters News
Posted: May 30, 2013 11:58 PM
Lebanese man sentenced for planting fake bomb near Chicago's Wrigley Field

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - A Lebanese immigrant in Chicago on Thursday was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for plotting an attack and planting what he thought was a bomb near the city's Wrigley Field baseball park.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 25, pleaded guilty last year to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and an explosive device after he placed what he thought was a homemade bomb in a garbage can in the north-side neighborhood during a busy Saturday night, according to court records.

He told an FBI informant and undercover agents he wanted to expose the city's inadequate security measures and embarrass then-Chicago Mayor Richard Daley into resigning, the criminal complaint against him said. It gave no further details as to motive.

In a series of planning meetings secretly tape-recorded by the FBI, Hassoun suggested various attacks including unleashing a virus on the city, poisoning its water supply, bombing the landmark Willis Tower skyscraper, attacking police officers or assassinating the mayor.

On September 18, 2010, undercover agents gave him a fake bomb in a backpack and told him that it was capable of wiping out half a city block, court documents said.

"The thought of what might have happened if it was real is horrific," said U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, who presided over the sentencing, in a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Hassoun then drove to Wrigleyville, the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. The area is known for its bars and restaurants and is densely populated, with blocks of apartment buildings.

He dropped the backpack into a trash can, before being arrested by law enforcement agents, according to the complaint.

Gettleman ordered Hassoun placed on five years of supervised release following his prison term and said he will be subject to deportation when he is released, according to the statement.

The sentencing comes six weeks after Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar allegedly set off two pressure-cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring 264.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held at a prison hospital west of Boston awaiting trial on charges that carry the possibility of the death penalty. His brother was killed during a shootout with police.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)