Broward man admits synagogue bomb plot, expected to serve 25 years and get treatment – Sun Sentinel

Posted By on August 16, 2017

A Broward man admitted Wednesday that he planned to bomb an Aventura synagogue during Passover last year.

But James Gonzalo Medina, 41, of Hollywood, has been diagnosed with a spider-like brain cyst that may have affected his conduct, according to the defense.

Under an uncommon agreement between the prosecution and defense, Medina is expected to be locked up for 25 years and will spend at least the first portion of that in a prison medical ward where he can get treatment for the cyst and his mental health. If or when he is deemed fully recovered, he would be transferred to the general population section of a prison.

The final decision lies with U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. when he sentences Medina on Nov. 17. Prosecutor Marc Anton said the government will recommend a 25-year sentence and will not contest the defenses request that Medina should be placed in a prison hospital ward setting, at least initially, for medical and mental health treatment.

Medina was arrested in April 2016 after an undercover sting, which was launched by the FBI after someone reported Medina was threatening an attack.

On Wednesday, Medina pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to damage religious property, which is a hate crime, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, a fake bomb.

Medina admitted he plotted with an undercover informant to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center. The complex includes a synagogue, classrooms and meeting halls.

He told the judge in court that he felt he had been manipulated in the undercover sting but said that he had committed the crimes.

I'm guilty, Medina said.

His defense team said they did not believe there was sufficient evidence to have persuaded a judge and jury that he was entrapped or coerced. If convicted after a trial, he would have faced life in prison.

Medina has been jailed without bond since he was arrested on April 29, 2016 as he walked from a car to the synagogue with a fake bomb that he said he thought was real.

Paula McMahon and Tonya Alanez

His case was stalled for several months while experts evaluated his mental health. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and the arachnoid brain cyst but both sides recently agreed that he is legally competent to proceed with the case.

Assistant Federal Public Defenders Hector Dopico and Eric Cohen told the judge they presented a lot of mitigating evidence to prosecutors to help persuade them that this plea agreement was an appropriate outcome. They said they had also considered whether there was enough evidence to mount an insanity defense but concluded that was not likely to succeed.

When Medina seemed like he might be wavering about going forward with the plea agreement in court, the judge told him not to plead guilty if he was innocent.

I didnt become a judge to send innocent people to prison, Scola told him.

The judge explained the legal details required to prove entrapment or coercion and Medina, after speaking again with his lawyers, acknowledged he was actually guilty of the offenses.

The FBI began an undercover investigation of Medina in March 2016 after receiving a tip that he was planning to shoot people in the synagogue. Agents launched a sting, which involved an undercover witness and an undercover FBI agent. During the sting, investigators said Medina changed his plans and decided he would bomb the synagogue during a religious holiday.

Medina is a U.S. citizen who was raised Pentecostal Christian but converted to Islam after a difficult divorce some years ago. Family members said he had a long history of mental health problems.

Agents said he confessed and told them he believed the Jews are the cause of the present state of the world and all the wars that are taking place.

Medina was secretly recorded saying that he wanted to commit a terrorist attack that would inflict maximum casualties and did not care if women and children were murdered: All these people gonna die.

During a period of several weeks, he shifted his plan from committing a mass shooting to bombing the religious buildings. During the sting, he said he wanted to give credit to radical Islamic State terrorists and hoped to inspire other terrorists to commit similar crimes.

Medina admitted he conducted a significant amount of planning, which included doing surveillance of the synagogue and writing a note, with an ISIS flag, to leave at the scene.

Before he went to carry out would be a fatal bombing, he also recorded three videos on a cellphone.

I am a Muslim and I dont like what is going on in this world. Im going to handle business here in America, Medina said on one of the recordings. Aventura, watch your back. ISIS is in the house.

pmcmahon@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4533 or Twitter @SentinelPaula

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Broward man admits synagogue bomb plot, expected to serve 25 years and get treatment - Sun Sentinel

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