A young Lebanese man caught plotting to detonate a bomb near Chicago’s iconic Wrigley Field baseball stadium was sentenced Thursday to 23 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Lebanese citizen Sami Samir Hassoun was a legal resident of the United States at the time of his 2010 arrest.
“The thought of what might have happened if it was real is horrific,” U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said in handing down the sentence.
Hassoun pleaded guilty last year to one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of attempted use of an explosive device.
The 25-year-old admitted to telling an FBI source that he wanted to “paralyze” Chicago commerce and undermine the city’s political establishment.
The informant introduced him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a terrorist who agreed to help him carry out the plot for a “revolution.”
After weeks of reconnaissance work and discussion of potential targets, the agent gave Hassoun a backpack that he said was filled with explosives powerful enough to destroy half a city block.
Hassoun activated the timer on the fake bomb and dropped the backpack in a trash bin when the nearby bars were filled with patrons who had attended a concert at Wrigley. He was then arrested.
“In conversation after conversation, Hassoun made clear that he was willing to bomb innocents and shoot police officers as part of a bizarre effort to destabilize the City of Chicago,” said Gary Shapiro, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
“And his actions demonstrated that his words were more than empty bravado.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation celebrated Hassoun’s stiff sentence and the hard work of the undercover agents.
“We remain vigilant in our mission to prevent attacks against Americans and to identify and hold accountable individuals and groups involved in the planning and execution of such attacks,” said Cory Nelson, head of the FBI’s Chicago bureau.
Hassoun will be subject to deportation when he is released.