Crime & Courts

ISIS suspect from Morganton returns to court July 8

Justin Sullivan of Morganton, accused of plotting random killings in support of ISIS, returns to court July 8
Justin Sullivan of Morganton, accused of plotting random killings in support of ISIS, returns to court July 8

Justin Sullivan, the Morganton teenager accused of plotting widespread killings in support of an Islamic terrorist group, will make his next court appearance in two weeks.

The 19-year-old was arrested Friday, accused of supporting a terrorist organization and related weapons charges, is scheduled to be back in federal court July 8. The hearing, in Asheville before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell, was to take place this week but was moved at the request of Sullivan’s new attorney, Fredilyn Sison, a federal public defender. She took over Sullivan’s defense on Monday and had asked the court for more time to prepare.

Howell will decide whether to set bond for the defendant; federal prosecutors are expected to oppose his release. Sison, of Asheville, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

According to court documents and the FBI, Sullivan considered himself a Muslim convert and a soldier in a holy war for Islam. Prosecutors say he planned to buy a semi-automatic rifle at last weekend’s gun show in Hickory and begin killing randomly in an effort to stop overseas bombings against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In a series of emails with an undercover FBI agent, Sullivan said he hoped to kill 1,000 Americans with guns, bombs and chemical weapons, documents show. He also wanted the agent to kill his parents, who were in a Charlotte courtroom this week when their son made his initial appearance.

In a raid of the family home last Friday, the FBI says it recovered a silencer that Sullivan sought and received from the undercover agent. Neighbors described the 19-year-old as quiet and withdrawn. But several reported incidents, including one shortly before his arrest, in which Sullivan fired guns. One neighbor said Sullivan appeared to be training.

Documents indicate that authorities first learned of Sullivan in April after his stepfather called 911 to report that Sullivan had poured gasoline on the family’s religious figurines to destroy them.

According to a Burke County Schools spokeswoman, Sullivan enrolled in the 11th grade at Patton High School on July 23, 2012, transferring in from Lake Forest High School in Felton, Del. He withdrew from Patton on Sept. 4, 2013, to attend St. Paul American School in the Philippines. His mother is from the Philippines, where Muslim rebels are active.

If convicted of all charges, Sullivan faces up to 40 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Gordon: 704-358-5095