Chicago fake-bomb suspect pleads guilty

CHICAGO - A Chicago man accused of placing a backpack he thought held a bomb near the home of the Chicago Cubs pleaded guilty to weapons charges Monday and could face up to 30 years in federal prison.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 24, admitted he took what he thought was a bomb and dropped it in a trash bin near Wrigley Field with the hope of taking down nearly half of a city block in the bustling neighborhood. It was a fake device given to him by undercover FBI agents who had been tipped off by an informant.

The Lebanese immigrant believed an attack on an entertainment hub like Wrigley, where a concert was being held that night, would "paralyze" Chicago commerce, according to the plea deal that requires him to cooperate with the government.

Hassoun appeared in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and spoke little.

"I plead guilty," he said, answering the judge's questions. When the hearing ended, he turned and blew a kiss to relatives in the courtroom.

Defense attorneys, who declined to talk to reporters after the hearing, previously described Hassoun, a one-time bakery worker, as gullible and prone to boasting but having no links to extremists.

Hassoun talked about profiting monetarily from such plots, and another time he discussed the idea of poisoning Lake Michigan or assassinating then-Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, according to a criminal complaint.

He pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device. The U.S. Attorney's office said it would recommend a prison sentence of 30 years.

Hassoun has been in federal custody since his 2010 arrest and faces at least 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 15. He had previously pleaded not guilty and if convicted at trial, would have faced life in prison.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman gave a detailed explanation of the plot, including how FBI agents asked Hassoun on numerous occasions if he wanted to back out, but he declined.


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