Attorney for Chicago bomb plot suspect says his client is not ‘traditional bad guy’

By Michael Tarm, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lawyer: Bomb suspect not ‘traditional bad guy’

CHICAGO — A man accused of placing a backpack that he thought contained a bomb near Chicago’s Wrigley Field was “not the traditional bad guy,” his attorney said Tuesday.

Myron Auerbach told The Associated Press he was confident that details would emerge to show that Sami Samir Hassoun, 22, was not bent on violence. Auerbach said the actions that prosecutors describe in their federal complaint were “bizarre.”

The complaint alleges that Hassoun plotted to bomb a neighborhood full of late-night revelers and at times spoke of bombing a skyscraper, poisoning Lake Michigan or assassinating Mayor Richard M. Daley. But it also suggests that Hassoun waffled on his plans and motivations, at one point saying he wanted to cause no deaths.

Hassoun also had no apparent affiliation with extremists. The criminal complaint alleges he raised the specter of terrorist groups, but only by suggesting it would be helpful to blame them for any attacks he staged.

“This does not read like some of the other homeland security cases I have read about,” Auerbach said.

The attorney declined to offer details, but said details about his client and the criminal case would soon show a much different picture.

“My client is not the traditional bad guy,” Auerbach said. “Sami has a unique personality. … A rich personality that we have to delve into.”

Hassoun, a Lebanese citizen, has lived in Chicago for about three years. Investigators said he planted the backpack in trash bin near a popular bar just steps from the Chicago Cubs’ baseball stadium. He was arrested early Sunday, shortly after making the drop, according to the criminal complaint.

Inside the backpack were a silver paint can with blasting caps and a timer that were decoys provided by an undercover FBI agent, the complaint said.

Hassoun was charged Monday with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and of an explosive device. He is scheduled to be in court Wednesday for a detention hearing.

An informant befriended Hassoun, conducting conversations in Arabic that were taped and shared with the FBI, according to the complaint.

Hassoun suggested several times that he wanted to profit monetarily, then said he wanted to foster “revolution,” according to the complaint.

Initially, Hassoun didn’t want to cause violence, suggesting setting off smoking devices in downtown locations near City Hall, according to his indictment.

“No killing. There is no killing,” he told the informant, according to the complaint.

But his plans became more grand, as he believed bigger acts would command public attention and embarrass the mayor, according to the complaint. Investigators also allege that during one conversation, the informant asked Hassoun if he would back out because people might be killed, and he responded, “To make a change, you have to sacrifice people.”

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