In Miami, a Federal Judge has initiated the sentencing of a man who was convicted for his attempts to mastermind the plot of bombing a Jewish Center.
The Florida man, 41-year-old James Medina, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a religious hate crime and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which was actually a fake bomb that was given to him by an FBI informant.
The case has been somewhat controversial with some suggesting the man was set up by FBI agents to go rogue and further plan to bomb a synagogue and Jewish school center during Passover.
Despite the concerns, Medina pleads guilty, and prosecutors alongside Medina’s attorney worked out an agreement that was accepted by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola.
Defense lawyer Hector Dopico said at the hearing that a combination of serious mental illness, in addition to brain damage from a 2007 car accident, were the main factors behind Medina’s plot to blow up the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center.
The defense also argued that Medina had been diagnosed with a “spider-like” brain cyst that may have affected his conduct, according to the<a href="http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/crime/fl-reg-james-medina-synagogue-plot-plea-20170814-story.html"> Sun Sentinel</a>.
The FBI had several recordings which showed that Medina, a Muslim convert, claimed allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group and said he had an obligation to attack Jews inside of the United States.
“This is one of those heartbreaking cases where there was an organic cause for the criminality,” Dopico said.
During his brief remarks to the Judge, Medina said that he needs “help for his illnesses,” and that he made a huge mistake by going forward with the Jewish center plot.
“I lost my mind. I lashed out,” he said.
Under the agreement, if Medina completes the hospital treatment successfully, he would return to court and have the 25-year sentence formally imposed, Scola said.
It’s also possible he could still get the maximum life sentence potential in the case, but the Judge has repeatedly said he favors the shorter prison term. His time in the hospital will also count toward his total sentence.
“It makes clear what the intention of this court is on this date,” the Judge said. “This is a very, very serious offense. There has to be a significant sentence.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Medina initially envisioned using AK-47-style weapons to shoot up the Jewish center, which has about 800 congregant families that attend.
Several conversations about the plot were recorded by the FBI informant, identified only as a “confidential human source” by the FBI.
Medina was also quoted as saying in one of the recordings that he wanted to “strike back at the Jews” and that “It’s a war man, and it’s like, it’s time to strike back here in America.”
“When I am doing this, I feel that I’m doing it for a good cause for Allah,” Medina said.
The FBI informant suggested switching to a bomb plot, which the FBI agents could more easily control, investigators previously testified.
At the time of the investigation, Medina was living with two other men in Hollywood, Florida, and one of them possessed an AK-47 rifle, according to the FBI.
Investigators also said that Medina wanted to create a leaflet to be left at the scene in which he would claim the attack was traced to Islamic State.
There’s no evidence the group was actually linked to Medina, but he told the informant that the leaflet would “make it look like it’s ISIS (Islamic State) here in America. Just like that.”
Medina was later arrested after accepting the dummy bomb from the informant near the Jewish center, right as he intended to use it to cause mass casualties.
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