Tuesday morning, Justin Sullivan, a 20-year-old Morganton, NC resident, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted terrorism in federal court.
Sullivan is accused of plotting a mass killing in support of the Islamic State.
“Sullivan was in contact and plotted with now-deceased Syria-based terrorist Junaid Hussain to execute acts of mass violence in the United States in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said.
According to court documents, Sullivan admitted that he attempted to commit terrorist attacks against innocent Americans in both North Carolina and Virginia.
“Justin Sullivan planned to kill hundreds of innocent people. He pledged his support to ISIL and took calculated steps to commit a murderous rampage to prove his allegiance to the terrorist organization,” Special Agent Charge Strong said.
Court documents also show that Sullivan had been in contact with ISIS leaders in Syria, referring to himself as “The Mujahid,” and proposed attacks that could potentially “kill hundreds” of people.
A Virginia gun show was apparently a potential target with Sullivan also telling undercover agents “that concerts would be good,” as well.
According to US Attorney Jill Rose, Sullivan researched weapons, ammunition, possible targets, and clearly “had every intention to carry this out.”
The plea agreement Sullivan entered into on Tuesday specifies a life sentence but, according to WBTV, court officials say the judge does have discretion in sentencing and will consider pre-sentence reports at a later hearing.
Sullivan spoke in front of the court Tuesday claiming that he is a Muslim and “still loves all my brothers and sisters.”
It is reported that Sullivan became interested in ISIL by watching attacks, such as beheadings, online and had a collection of recorded attacks on his laptop at the time of his arrest.
Sullivan first came under federal investigation when his father called law enforcement about his son’s “unusual behavior.”
Rich Sullivan told WBTV that he had to report his son because, “I am an American.”
US Attorney Jill Rose said what Sullivan’s father did by turning him in was extremely hard to do but “It definitely saved lives.”