A permanent resident alien of Lebanese descent was sentenced Friday to 23 years in federal prison for attempting to set off a bomb on a crowded street in downtown Chicago.
Sami Samir Hassoun, a 25-year-old Chicago man, pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device. On September 18, 2010, Hassoun placed a backpack that he thought contained a powerful explosive device in a garbage can on North Side Street near Wrigley Field in Chicago. A concert was scheduled in the area the night of the incident, court records show.
In conversations with an undercover FBI agent who was introduced to Hassoun as a "good friend" and "brother," Hassoun "discussed his idea of a series of escalating violent attacks to damage Chicago's sense of security, its economy, and trust in leadership." He "identified Chicago entertainment establishments, civic buildings, commercial high-rises, and transportation infrastructure as potential targets." Hassoun also discussed potential targets for attack, including a biological attack on the city, poisoning Lake Michigan, attacking police officers, bombing the Sears (Willis), and assassinating the mayor.
"If the bag that Hassoun left in that Clark Street trash receptacle had contained the type of explosive device that he thought it did, the results would have been horrific," United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Gary S. Shapiro said in a Department of Justice press release announcing the sentence.
"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. And his actions demonstrated that his words were more than empty bravado," Shapiro added.
Recognizing the serious nature of the crime, District Judge Robert Gettleman ordered Hassoun placed on five years of supervised release following his prison term. Hassoun would also be subject to deportation proceedings upon his release.