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Chicago man pleads guilty in plot to set off bomb near Wrigley Field

By Annie Sweeney, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — A Chicago man of Lebanese descent pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to placing a backpack he thought contained a powerful explosive device in a trash container on a crowded street near Wrigley Field in September 2010.

Sami Samir Hassoun, 24, turned and blew a kiss to his family in the courtroom when the hearing concluded. He faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 15.

The explosive device Hassoun planted was inoperable and had been provided to him by undercover FBI agents.

In a detailed explanation of the plot, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Hammerman said that undercover agents repeatedly asked Hassoun whether he wanted to back out of the plot, but he steadfastly refused. Hassoun also chose the location that was targeted — near Wrigley Field on the night of a concert in the ballpark, according to his plea agreement.

According to prosecutors, Hassoun also repeatedly told the undercover agents of several violent ideas he had — among them targeting civic and political institutions and killing Chicago police in car bombings.

The investigation against Hassoun started after he told an unnamed cooperating source of his violent intentions and his hope to create “political instability” in Chicago or “paralyze” the city’s commerce, Hammerman said.

That individual reported Hassoun to the FBI, which then set up the sting operation.

“Hassoun assured (the undercover agents) that he wanted to participate in some violent attack,” the plea agreement reads.

The covert officers met with Hassoun on Sept. 18, 2010, and gave him a backpack they said contained a bomb. Shortly after midnight, Hassoun put the bomb — which was inside a backpack and shopping bag — inside a trash can outside the ballpark.

During Hammerman’s recitation of the plot, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman asked Hassoun whether he understood the charges against him. “Yes,” he answered.

Hassoun told Gettleman that he worked in a bakery and had completed his freshman year of college at the time he joined the plot.

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