National News

Life in prison for NC man convicted of plotting terrorist attack as part of ISIS

Posted June 28

— A North Carolina man has been sentenced to life in prison for planning a terrorist attack as part of ISIS.

Court documents say 21-year-old Justin Sullivan of Morganton, N.C. had researched how to manufacture firearm silencers, and asked an undercover FBI agent to build functional silencers that they could use to carry out the planned attacks.

The records show that Sullivan told the agent he planned to carry out his attack in the following few days at a concert, bar or club, where he believed as many as 1000 people could be killed using the assault rifle and silencer.

According to a federal press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, on or about June 19, 2015, a silencer built according to Sullivan's instructions was delivered to him at his home in North Carolina.

Sullivan's mother opened the package. Sullivan took the silencer from her and hid it in a crawl space under his house.

The release says that when Sullivan's parents questioned him about the silencer, Sullivan, fearing they would interfere with his plans to carry out the attack, offered to compensate the undercover agent to kill them.

The release also says that Sullivan had acknowledged that he took "substantial" steps towards carrying out terrorist attacks in North Carolina and Virginia, and that he had obtained a silencer from the undercover agent, gotten money for an AR-15, tried to obtain the ammunition that he believed would be the most "deadly", identified gun shows where he could purchase AR-15s, and obtained a coupon for the gun shows he planned to attend.

Sullivan was only 19 years old at the time he was charged, in 2015. He pleaded guilty last November.

His sentencing began Tuesday morning at the Federal Courthouse in Asheville.

The 21-year-old stood before the court saying multiple times that he is "not a bad person." He acknowledged he is a Muslim, and said "things just happened," and that he doesn't want people to misjudge him.

Sullivan's parents were also in the courtroom, and were tearful at times.

The federal prosecution argued that Sullivan knew that what he was doing was wrong because of where evidence was found.

They say a rifle with a silencer, a black mask, and a lock-pick kit were found under a tarp in the basement of Sullivan's home.

He never apologized or acknowledged wrongdoing.

"He had hidden the items, he was hiding them from his parents. He tried to destroy evidence, and so certainly he knew that what he was doing was wrong, that it was criminal, and he was trying to avoid detection at all costs," said Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District.

The defense argued that Sullivan has mental health issues and shows signs of developing schizophrenia. They do not want him in a maximum security prison.

News 13 asked Sullivan's father if he was aware of any psychological issues with his son.

In the Court Findings, the Court noted that Sullivan's plan to murder people in an event that was similar to the Orlando nightclub attack last year. According to the Court, Sullivan's plan was more sinister because he planned to use stealth, hiding his identity and using a silencer to kill as many people as possible, "with the hope to escape and kill again."

The Court found that Sullivan's offenses were "cold and calculating."

Sullivan is also charged with killing his 74-year-old neighbor, John Clark. The prosecution revealed Tuesday in court that Clark's death happened just six months before Sullivan reached out to ISIS about planning a mass-casualty attack. Sullivan will stand trial for the death of Clark in a separate state case at a later date, and could face the death penalty.

U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina said this life sentence serves as a deterrent for others with similar plans.

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