Chicago man pleads not guilty to Wrigleyville bomb plot

October 20, 2010

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A young Chicago man accused of trying to plant a bomb near a strip of popular bars in Wrigleyville last month is pleading not guilty to terrorism charges.

A lawyer for 22-year-old Sami Samir Hassoun, a Lebanese immigrant living in Chicago, entered the plea Wednesday before a federal judge in Chicago.

Prosecutors say Hassoun tried to plant what he thought was a bomb outside Sluggers bar in Wrigleyville, about a block from the home of the Chicago Cubs. But the device was just a dummy, given to him by a confidential source working with the FBI, according to the government's indictment.

Hassoun is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of an explosive device.

The government's indictment also accuses Hassoun of plotting to poison Lake Michigan, bomb Willis Tower and depose Mayor Richard Daley in an effort to effect politicla change in Chicago.

Myron Auerbach, who is acting as Hassoun's attorney, told reporters after Wednesday's brief hearing that his client is not an ideaologue with explosive expertise and connections to terrorist organizations, but rather a "troubled young man" and a "big talker."

"While you might want to call him a freelancer, he's not," Auerbach said. "He's just an incompetent who spoke to much and who was led down the path by the confidential source."

Auerbach said he still doesn't know to what extent the FBI source "cajoled" his client, because he still has not received police documents related to the case.  He said there are also more than 100 hours of government surveillance tape.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined to comment on today's hearing.