A Florida man pled guilty to hate crimes and attempting to use what he though was a “weapon of mass destruction” on a local synagogue, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.
James Gonzalo Medina admitted to pursuing an attack against the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in southern Florida with both explosives and firearms in 2016, the DOJ announced. Medina received what he thought was an explosive device from an undercover Join Terrorism Task Force Agent (JTTF) and approached the synagogue intending to detonate it before officers took him into custody.
“Acts of bigotry and hatred are evil and have no place in our society. One of the top priorities of this Department of Justice is reducing violent crime, and you can be sure that this includes hate crime.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this repugnant lawlessness, and we will be vigilant in prosecuting hate crime offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
The DOJ said Medina had scouted out the synagogue several times before his attack, initially planning to use a firearm. He settled on using an explosive instead, upon receiving one from the JTTF agent.
Medina is one of several recent DOJ prosecutions against Americans engaging in or supporting terrorism. In July, Yahya Farooq Mohammad, a citizen of India who married a U.S. citizen in 2008, pled guilty to traveling to Yemen to provide thousands of dollars, equipment, and other assistance to notorious now-deceased terrorist recruiter Anwar Al-Awlaki. His plea deal stated that he will be sentenced to 27 years in prison.
Mohammad also pled guilty to attempting to hire a “hitman,” who was actually an undercover FBI agent, to kidnap and murder U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary, who presided over his case in 2016. He offered to pay up to $15,000 to have the judge “taken care of.”
Justin Nojan Sullivan, 21, was sentenced to life in prison in June for attempting to start an ISIS branch in the U.S and trying to carry out terror attacks in North Carolina and Virginia.
Medina faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
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