U.S. News

Ohio man pleads guilty to plotting July 4, 2018, bomb attack in Cleveland

FILE PHOTO: Demetrius Pitts,, arrested by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, is seen in this booking photo taken while in custody with North Olmsted Police Department in North Olmsted, Ohio, U.S., July 2, 2018. Courtesy North Olmsted Police Department/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

(Reuters) - An Ohio man accused of plotting a July 4 bomb attack in Cleveland last year pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal charge of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. law enforcement officials said.

Demetrius Pitts, 50, who also pleaded guilty to threatening the life of U.S. President Donald Trump and the president’s immediate family, faces a likely sentence of 14 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release, officials said in announcing the conviction.

Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 11.

Pitts was arrested by FBI agents on July 1, 2018, after a series of meetings with an undercover agent and an informant in which he discussed plans to set off a bomb at an Independence Day celebration in a Cleveland park, authorities said.

According to the FBI, Pitts chose the waterfront park as his target in part because it was near a U.S. Coast Guard station, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outpost and a downtown federal office building that he also wanted to damage.

Pitts, a Philadelphia native who had expressed allegiance to the militant group al Qaeda, also discussed his intention to travel to his Pennsylvania hometown to conduct reconnaissance for a future truck bomb attack there, the FBI said.

The defendant, who lived in Cleveland’s Maple Heights suburb before his arrest, previously served time in prison for a 1993 robbery in the Cincinnati area, authorities said.

Pitts, who went by the pseudonyms Abdur Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed, came under FBI scrutiny on the basis of a tip that led federal investigators to review his social media postings, determining that Pitts was “threatening violence against the United States,” the agency said.

Reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, Calif.; Editing by Peter Cooney