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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Milwaukee Man Indicted in Plan to Attack Masonic Center

The Milwaukee man accused of planning an attack on the Scottish Rite center in Milwaukee was indicted by a grand jury Monday. Samy Hamzeh, 23, appeared in court and pleaded not guilty. He was returned to jail, with no bail set at this time.

From the very detailed article Monday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by John Diedrich (the local source that has done the best and most thorough reporting on this case):

Hamzeh was indicted on two counts of possessing a machine gun and one count of possessing a silencer. Each count carries up to 10 years in prison. 
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Jones set the next court date for March 29 to give Albee time to start translating the recordings, which were made between October and late January.
On Jan. 25, Hamzeh bought two fully automatic H&K MP5 machine guns and a silencer from undercover FBI agents in Kenosha and was arrested.
As U.S. deputy marshals led him out of court Tuesday, a handcuffed Hamzeh smiled at his parents who were in the courtroom. His mother, who had been weeping, blew a kiss to her son. 
In earlier interviews and on social media, Hamzeh's family said he was set up by the FBI.
A criminal complaint filed last month charging Hamzeh quotes him as saying he was plotting the attack as a way of "defending Islam" and hoped to kill at least 30 people.
"We will be marching at the front of the war," he said, according to the criminal complaint.
Hamzeh is not charged with terrorism-related counts. There are no federal laws for a case like the one being mounted against Hamzeh — a so-called lone wolf suspect who planned an attack using guns, according to former prosecutors and other legal experts who reviewed the case at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Asked after Tuesday's hearing whether prosecutors had reviewed using the federal hate crime statute, Kanter said it was "a fair question" but he was unable to answer. 
Federal law experts said it was unlikely prosecutors could use the statute because the Masons are not a protected group. However, it might be applicable if Hamzeh thought he was targeting a religious group, they said.
A U.S. citizen who has lived in Milwaukee for five years, Hamzeh has no criminal record. His family said he was set up by people close to Hamzeh who were secretly recording him for the FBI. Those informants have not been identified.
In online postings, his family said he was passionate about the plight of the Palestinians but was not a religious zealot and launching such an attack would be completely out of character. Friends echoed that, saying Hamzeh smoked marijuana and hung out in bars and coffee shops, but was no radical.

For details of the alleged plot and Hamzeh's arrest, see the article from January 27th, 2016 HERE.

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