Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime and Weapons of Mass Destruction Charges for Attempting to Attack Florida Synagogue
James Gonzalo Medina pleaded guilty today to a federal hate crime for attempting to attack an Aventura, Florida synagogue, and to a charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida.
During the plea proceedings, Medina admitted that in March and April 2016, he planned to conduct a firearms or explosives attack on the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. Medina took steps to prepare for this attack including conducting surveillance of the Jewish Center. On April 29, 2016, Medina took possession of what he believed to be an explosive device, obtained from a Southern Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force agent, and approached the Jewish Center on foot with the device in hand, intending to commit the attack.
"Acts of bigotry and hatred are evil and have no place in our society," Attorney General Sessions said. "One of the top priorities of this Department of Justice is reducing violent crime, and you can be sure that this includes hate crime. We will not tolerate this repugnant lawlessness, and we will be vigilant in prosecuting hate crime offenders to the fullest extent of the law. I want to thank the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Southern Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force, and all of the Department of Justice attorneys and staff who worked to bring this criminal to justice, and I assure every American that the Department of Justice is committed to protecting their rights."
“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates how hate often motivates acts of domestic terror,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Greenberg for the Southern District of Florida. “Prosecuting terrorism and violent crimes inspired by a victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, or gender identity remains a top priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and our dedicated partners at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
A sentencing hearing has not yet been set.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Southern Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Anton and Michael Thakur of the Southern District of Florida, with the assistance of the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Counsel Steve Curran and National Security Division’s Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks.