A Crown Point man was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for his role in an attempted terrorist attack that prosecutors say was inspired by the June 2016 attack on the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
Marlonn Hicks, 31, of Crown Point, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen on charges of distributing information regarding the manufacture and use of explosives with the intent that the information be used for and in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Hicks pleaded guilty in fall 2016 to sending bomb-making instructions online earlier that year to a government informant with the intent that an attack be carried out in the name of ISIS.
“The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting terrorist threats against our homeland,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a news release. “The defendant plotted to conduct an attack on U.S. soil and, with today’s sentence, he is being held accountable for his actions."
“The online communications by Mr. Hicks drew swift attention from our agents, who had identified and monitored him early in his path to radicalization,” FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Grant Mendenhall said in a news release. “As this radicalization deepened, the FBI continued to monitor Mr. Hicks’ activity and took action to mitigate any threats ensuring the public’s safety.”
According to the documents in this case, Hicks rapidly transformed from a vocal online supporter of ISIS to someone planning a terrorist act.
“This exemplifies the Government’s commitment to prevent terrorism,” Kirsch said in a release. "Rather than mourning the tragic attacks in Orlando, Hicks was inspired to try to commit a terror attack to kill innocent victims in the United States. My office, working with the FBI and the National Security Division, quickly and efficiently eliminated the threat to public safety created by Mr. Hicks’ illegal activities.”
The Pulse attack was carried out by gunman Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before Orlando police fatally shot Mateen.
Nine days after the Pulse nightclub massacre, Hicks discussed "getting busy" with an FBI source who Hicks believed was an ISIS supporter.
"Hicks sent this source two manuals on how to manufacture and use explosives and poisons and continued to discuss with this FBI source possible terror attacks. Hicks made his motivation for the planned attacks clear, exclaiming that since the FBI and similar government personnel 'have shut the door now (on his ability to travel to ISIS controlled territory and fight there) ... I’m gonna open the door to hell for them,'" the release states.
As Hicks developed an attack plan, he discussed coordinating attacks to create more of an audience, the U.S. attorney's office said. Hicks also discussed how to purchase firearms and practice with them.
"Hicks clearly communicated to multiple sources and during his post-arrest interview that he wanted everyone to know the attacks were carried out in the name of ISIS," the office said in Monday's news release.
During FBI surveillance, Hicks warned one of the FBI sources to, “Be careful, the boys was just following me," referring to then-ongoing FBI surveillance.
During a message exchange with the FBI source, Hicks said he was “strapped,” showed a picture of his firearm, and said, “If they had me on anything, I’d already be dead cause in Shaa Allah. I ain’t going to jail.” Shaa Allah translates to God willing.
Hicks was arrested on federal charges without incident in July 2016 and has remained in federal custody since that time.