A New Jersey teenager Santos Colon Jr. pleaded guilty Monday (April 3, 2017) for attempting to provide material support to terrorists and plotting the assassination of Pope Francis when he was on a trip to Philadelphia during the Papal mass in September 2015. Colon was a juvenile when he was involved in the plotting. Even as he was arrested in 2015, he was not charged then.
According to the Department of Justice, Colon pleaded guilty in Camden federal court before the U.S. District Court Judge Noel L. Hillman. The announcement was made Monday by Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Mary B. McCord.
Prosecutors said Colon admitted to conspiring an ISIS-inspired plot of detonating bombs across Philadelphia between June 30, 2015 to Aug. 14, 2015. He also admitted to the planning of Pope's assassination prior to his visit to the city. However, prosecutors did not reveal the motive behind the attacks and said that they are continuing investigations.
Under Colon's plea agreement, authorities said they won’t charge Colon with other offenses, including "attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (namely the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) between April and August in 2015" or "attempting to obtain and use a weapon of mass destruction." However, he will face up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his guilty plea. No date has been decided yet for his sentencing.
Colon often used an adopted name "Ahmad Shakoor" while he was planning for the attacks. Officials also said that he planned a sniper attack on the Pope during his visit.
The officials revealed that Colon was unaware he "engaged someone he thought would be a sniper but was actually an undercover FBI employee." Colon also allegedly "engaged in target reconnaissance" with an FBI confidential source and asked them to purchase materials for the production of explosives meant for the attack.