TOLEDO (WTOL) - A man accused of planning attacks against Toledo synagogues was arraigned in federal court Wednesday.
Damon Joseph, 21, was indicted earlier for attempting to commit a hate crime, possession of firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence, and attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
He pleaded not guilty to all charges
Joseph, who is also known as Abdullah Ali Yusuf, told undercover officers that he was a supporter of ISIS and said, "Jewish people were evil and deserved what was coming to them,” in the wake of the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
He then identified two synagogues as his targets and expressed a desire to kill the rabbi, according to the FBI.
He stated the choice would depend on “Which one will have [the] most people, what time and what day. Go big or go home.”
Joseph stated he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish Sabbath was so that more people would be present. Joseph pulled up photographs for the undercover officer of the inside of the synagogue and said he wanted the attack to begin in the sanctuary.
According to court documents, he laid out his plan for attack, using the name Abdullah Ali Yusuf from himself, and described plans to attack where the greatest number of people are gathered, inflict the most casualties during the attack and make sure no one escaped, besides himself.
“In a matter of months, Damon Joseph allegedly progressed from radicalized, virtual jihadist to attack planner,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Hughes. “He ultimately decided to target two Toledo-area synagogues for a mass-casualty attack in the name of ISIS. Joseph will now be accountable in a court of law for his pursuit of a violent act of terrorism upon our fellow citizens attending their desired house of worship.”
According to documents filed in court, Joseph drew the attention of law enforcement in 2018 by posting photographs of weapons and various messages in support of ISIS on his social media accounts, as well as a photograph originally distributed by the media wing of ISIS.
During his communication with undercover agents, Joseph stated his support for ISIS and produced propaganda in support of ISIS recruitment. In September, Joseph made videos that he sent to the undercover agent, hoping they would be used to recruit people to ISIS. He also complained that the mosque he attended was critical of ISIS.
“This man allegedly spent months planning a violent terrorist attack on behalf of ISIS here in the United States, and targeted a Jewish synagogue in the Toledo area specifically because of the faith of the people who worship there,” said U.S. Attorney Herdman. “We will work to identify and arrest anyone who take steps to use violence to spread their ideology and to interfere with the free exercise of our essential rights.”
Joseph was arrested in December when he took a black duffel bag containing two semi-automatic rifles, which had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers so that they posed no danger to the public, from the undercover officer he was corresponding with.