A Massachusetts man admitted to plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon using remote- controlled aircraft.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to attempting to damage a federal building with an explosive and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Ferdaus had pleaded not guilty to six charges in October. Four of those charges were dropped.
“Yes, I do,” Ferdaus replied when U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns asked him if he accepted responsibility for his actions.
Ferdaus, who holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northeastern University, designed and built detonation devices for plastic explosives using mobile phones, according to his indictment. He supplied 12 phones modified to act as switches for the explosives to undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agents he thought worked for al-Qaeda, according to court papers.
He allegedly told the agents he planned to fly two aircraft into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department in Arlington, Virginia, and one into the Capitol in Washington.
Ferdaus agreed to a recommended sentence of 17 years in prison plus 10 years’ supervised release.
Stearns accepted the plea, saying there was “sufficient and overwhelming basis to warrant a jury finding him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” The judge set sentencing for Nov. 1. Ferdaus faced life in prison if convicted at trial.
His lawyers had argued previously that the FBI continued the sting even though Ferdaus showed signs of mental illness and tried to end communications with the agents.
“Undercover agents told him more than 25 times he didn’t have to go through with his plan to attack the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Siegmann said at the hearing. “In response, the defendant repeatedly reaffirmed his commitment to his plan and his hope to cause psychological harm to the United States.”
Ferdaus told the judge he has been treated for “mild” depression and anxiety and is taking anti-anxiety medication.
A resident of Ashland, Massachusetts, Ferdaus used the alias Dave Winfield, the name of a former New York Yankees baseball player, when he bought the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the indictment. Agents arrested him in September after they delivered weapons to him and he locked them up in a storage facility in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Federal marshals leading him out of the courtroom today directed him away from his mother, who tried to hug him. She then collapsed on a bench and wept.
The case is U.S. v. Ferdaus, 11-10331, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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