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United States v. Ciccolo

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 21, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEXANDER CICCOLO, a/k/a Ali Al Amriki, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING GLOBE’S MOTION TO INTERVENE AND FOR RECONSIDERATION OF ORDER ALLOWING MOTION TO SUBSTITUTE EXHIBIT (Dkt. No. 32)

KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON United States Magistrate Judge

I. Introduction

This action arises out of a July 20, 2015 Order by this court granting the government’s Assented To Motion to Substitute Exhibit (Dkt. No. 18). The Order withdrew a 8-1/2 minute video recording of defendant Alexander Ciccolo’s (“Defendant”) post-arrest statement that was played at his July 14, 2015 detention hearing and substituted a version of the video in which Defendant’s face is obscured (Dkt. No. 19).

Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC (the “Globe”) moves to intervene for the limited purpose of seeking reconsideration of the court’s July 20, 2015 Order and for leave to inspect and copy the exhibit in the form in which it was offered and admitted at the July 14, 2015 detention hearing (Dkt. No. 32). The government does not oppose the Globe’s motion to intervene for the limited purpose of asking the court to reconsider its July 20, 2015 Order but does oppose the Globe’s motion for reconsideration (Dkt. No. 42). Defendant opposes the Globe’s motion to intervene and for reconsideration (Dkt. No. 43). For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the Globe’s motion to intervene for the limited purpose of asking the court to reconsider its July 20, 2015 Order. The court denies the Globe’s motion for reconsideration.

II. Background

A. Investigation and charges

According to an affidavit of F.B.I. Special Agent Paul Ambrogio (“S.A. Ambrogio”) filed in support of the government’s motion for detention, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”) began investigating Defendant’s activities in support of ISIL, a foreign terrorist organization, in or around September 2014 (Dkt. No. 12-3). The JTTF learned during its investigation that Defendant was interested in martyrdom for the sake of Islam and strongly supported the armed activities of ISIL (id. at ¶¶ 15, 16). Defendant, for example, made a Facebook posting under the name “Ali Al Amriki, ” stating “Thank you Islamic State! Now we don’t have to deal with these kafir[1] back in America, ” accompanied by an image that appeared to be of a dead American soldier (id.).

On June 24, 2015, Defendant met with a cooperating witness (the “CW”) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and spoke about his plans to travel to another state to conduct a terrorist attack on civilians, members of the U.S. military, and law enforcement personnel (id. at ¶ 18). Defendant told the CW that he would attack two different bars and a police station by using improvised explosive devices, including pressure cooker bombs and portable microwave bombs (id.). On June 30, 2015, Defendant met with the CW in Springfield, Massachusetts and praised the shooting attack at a beachside resort in Tunisia for which ISIL claimed credit (id. at ¶ 19). Defendant continued to talk about his plan to conduct a terrorist attack in another state, explaining that he wanted to conduct an attack at a university instead of a police station because there were more people at the university (id. at ¶¶ 20-22). According to Defendant, the attack would concentrate on the college cafeteria and dorms so that he could broadcast live executions of students via the internet (id. at ¶ 20). Taking his cue from the Boston Marathon bombing, Defendant told the CW that the explosives would include bombs made with pressure cookers (id.). Defendant wrote out a list of items that would be needed to conduct the attack, including four AK-47s, two sniper rifles, four handguns, gelignite, black powder, and improvised grenades (id. at ¶ 20).

On July 2, 2015, Defendant had an online conversation with the CW in which he reaffirmed that the target was a college cafeteria and that the target place was “very sinful and has a crowd” (id. at ¶ 30). On July 3, 2014, Defendant bought a pressure cooker at a Walmart in North Adams, Massachusetts (id. at ¶ 31). He wrote to the CW that he had purchased the pressure cooker and had made ten fire bombs (id. at ¶ 32). On July 4, 2015, Defendant accepted delivery from the CW of four firearms that had previously traveled in interstate commerce (id. at ¶ 33). The firearms were a 9mm Glock 17 handgun, a 10mm Glock 20 handgun, a .223 Colt AR-15 rifle, and a 556 Sig Arms SG550 rifle (id.). Thereafter, Defendant was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm that had traveled in interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Dkt. No. 4).[2] After Defendant was arrested, he stabbed a nurse in the head with a pen at the Franklin County House of Correction, causing the pen to break in half (Dkt. No. 12-3 ¶ 39).

During a post-arrest interview with S.A. Ambrogio, which was video recorded, Defendant reaffirmed his support of ISIL and the violent acts committed by ISIL members (id at ¶ 35). The interview included, but was not limited to, the following exchanges:

. When S.A. Ambrogio asked Defendant about his feelings about ISIL, Defendant responded “they are doing a good thing.”
. In regards to recordings of beheadings broadcast on the internet by ISIL, Defendant told the agent that “the people you see being executed are criminals.”
. He stated that when “a group of people begins implementing something other than Sharia, ...

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