ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A North Carolina man plead guilty to a count of “attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries” in court on Tuesday and now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“Justin Sullivan planned to kill hundreds of innocent people,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Strong in a statement. “He pledged his support to ISIL and took calculated steps to commit a murderous rampage to prove his allegiance to the terrorist organization.”
According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2014, Sullivan, now 20, began watching watching violent ISIS videos on the Internet and saved the recordings. He also reportedly destroyed his parents’ religious items, declaring himself to be a supporter of ISIS.
“I don’t know if it is ISIS or what, but he is destroying Buddhas and figurines and stuff,” his father Rich Sullivan reportedly said in a 911 call, tipping off authorities. “I mean, we are scared to leave the house.”
The following year, Sullivan allegedly discussed with now-deceased ISIS recruiter Junaid Hussain plans to carry out armed attacks in North Carolina and Virginia. But, as previously reported, little did Sullivan know that one of the people had talked to about the plot was an undercover FBI agent.
According to court documents, Sullivan told the agent that it was better to support ISIS in the U.S. rather than travel overseas, and soon purchased a weapon, asking the agent to build a silencer for him. He advised that he was plotting to carry out an attack at a concert, bar or club, estimating that they could kill about 1,000 people.
In keeping in contact with Hussain, Sullivan was asked to record the attack.
Sullivan also allegedly offered the undercover FBI agent compensation to kill his parents after they learned about the silencer.
In June 2015, Sullivan was arrested and a search warrant was issued for the discussed items, and this week, he accepted a plea agreement that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“Sullivan admitted in court today that he attempted to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries by planning mass casualty shooting attacks on behalf of ISIL against innocent people in North Carolina and Virginia,” U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose said in a statement. “Sullivan also admitted he had frequent and direct communications with Junaid Hussain, one of ISIL’s prominent members in Syria, who asked Sullivan to make a video of the deadly attack.”
“There is no more important work that we in the Department of Justice undertake than the fight against terrorism,” she added. “It is frightening to know that the defendant in this case was able to use social media to contact and seek advice from ISIL, a murderous organization. Yet, it emboldens us to be fiercely aggressive and diligent in our efforts to combat this special kind of evil.”
As previously reported, FBI Director James Comey remarked earlier this year that he believes ISIS sympathizers are present throughout the nation.
“We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states,” he told a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). “This isn’t a New York phenomenon or a Washington phenomenon. This is all 50 states and in ways that are very hard to see…”
Comey explained that Islamic terror groups believe that they are carrying out their acts as part of the end times.
“ISIL in particular is putting out a siren song with their slick propaganda through social media that goes like this: ‘Troubled soul, come to the caliphate. You will live a life of glory. These are the apocalyptic end times. You will find a life of meaning here fighting for our so-called caliphate. And if you can’t come, kill somebody where you are,” he outlined. “That is a message that goes out to troubled souls everywhere.”
Nadeem Walayat of the Market Oracle has likewise noted that groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have an apocalyptic strategy.
“What ISIS and virtually all Muslims anticipate is for Jesus to return on the white Eastern Minaret of Damascus (Syria) gliding in on the wings of two angels and then through much blood and carnage will convert the whole world to Islam including killing all of the Jews, break all of the crosses and live as a Muslim for 40 years, before dying and thus heralding the final countdown to Judgment Day when Muslims expect to enter paradise,” he wrote in a report on the matter.