An attempted terrorist who targeted a federal courthouse in Illinois pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Michael C. Finton, also known as "Talib Islam" [Student of Islam], entered a guilty plea on a single count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against property owned by the United States.
"Michael Finton is one of a number of young Americans over the past two years who, under the influence of a radical and violent ideology, have sought to carry out acts of terrorism in the United States," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Todd Hinnen. "Although a coordinated undercover law enforcement investigation thwarted Mr. Finton's plot to destroy the federal courthouse in Springfield, this case underscores the need to remain vigilant against the threat posed by homegrown extremism."
Finton seemed to be an unusual terrorist. Tall and red-haired, Finton was known as "cheerful and polite" by his coworkers at the Seals Fish and Chicken in Decatur, Ill. A part-time fry cook, Finton converted to Islam in prison and idolized John Walker Lindh, an American who fought alongside the Taliban. He also believed that American society was too "permissive," causing him to see Saudi Arabia as a potential place to settle.
According to the plea agreement, Finton admitted that he drove a truck containing what he thought was a ton of explosives to the Paul Findley Federal Building and Courthouse. The federal facility was not in danger because the "explosives" were actually inert substances. After parking the truck between the court and a congressman's office, Finton triggered a timer on the device, transferred vehicles, and then tried to remotely detonate the fake bomb.
Finton picked the target and initially intended to detonate two bombs. The first would destroy the courthouse, while the second would target those who responded to the scene.