Ohio man pleads guilty to plotting July 4, 2018, bomb attack in Cleveland

(Reuters) – An Ohio man accused of plotting a July 4 bomb attack in Cleveland last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal charge of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. law enforcement officials said. Demetrius Pitts, 50, who also pleaded guilty to threatening the life of U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s immediate family, faces a likely sentence of 14 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release, officials said in announcing the conviction. Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 11. Pitts was arrested by FBI agents on July 1, 2018, after a series of meetings with an undercover agent and an informant in which he discussed plans to set off a bomb at an Independence Day celebration in a Cleveland park, authorities said. According to the FBI, Pitts chose the waterfront park as his target in part because it was near a U.S. Coast Guard station, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outpost and a downtown federal office building that he also wanted to damage. Pitts, a Philadelphia native who had expressed allegiance to the militant group al Qaeda, also discussed his intention to travel to his Pennsylvania hometown to conduct reconnaissance for a future truck bomb attack there, the FBI said. The defendant, who lived in Cleveland’s Maple Heights suburb before his arrest, previously served time in prison for a 1993 robbery in the Cincinnati area, authorities said. Pitts, who went by the pseudonyms Abdur Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, came under FBI scrutiny on the basis of a tip that led federal investigators to review his social media postings, determining that Pitts was “threatening violence against the United States,” the agency said.

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