The Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and the Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League commended the US Department of Justice and the FBI for their efforts to arrest and prosecute Damon M. Joseph, whose pen name is Abdullah Ali Yusuf, 23. from Holland, Ohio.
“We are grateful for the work the FBI is doing to prevent a possible terrorist attack in a synagogue in Toledo, Ohio,” James Pasch, regional director of the Cleveland office of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to the CJN in an email dated Jan. May. “Nobody should be targeted for their religion and we must all work together to stop hatred when we see it.”
Joseph pleaded guilty on May 18 Try to provide material support to the Islamic State Group and the attempt to commit a hate crime in order to plan an attack on two synagogues in the Toledo area.
“We are pleased that he appears guilty and look forward to an appropriate judgment,” Stephen Rothschild, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Greater Toledo, told the CJN on May 19.
Joseph’s January 29, 2019 indictment was the first in the country to claim either National security violations and hate crimes.
His plea agreement was made on the last day his case was due for submissions dated to his arrest on December 7, 2018 took place after accepting firearms from an undercover FBI agent after weeks of online and face-to-face contact.
Days after his arrest, 400 people grabbed Temple Shomer Emunim in Sylvania Township to learn of the conspiracy. Two of Toledo’s synagogues share a campus with the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and the merged Jewish Community Center and YMCA.
The sentencing is scheduled for September 14th before Judge Jack Zouhary of the US District Court in Toledo. The maximum sentence is life in prison for the two charges on which Joseph pleaded guilty. Joseph pleaded not guilty to a third count, possession of firearms to promote a violent crime.
Joseph was represented by lawyers Neil McElroy and Peter G. Rost, both from Toledo.
Rost told the Cleveland Jewish News that the plea discussed in court would sentence Joseph to 20 years in prison.
“However, the judge accepted this plea and waited to see what the preliminary report would say about the background to the case. The court has reserved the right not to ultimately accept the plea, “said Rost on May 19, adding that the case would then be brought to trial.
Rothschild hopes the verdict will be sufficient that if he is ever released, he will “not pose a threat to the Jewish community or any other group in America”.
Rothschild was in Toledo at the time of Joseph’s arrest, despite not working for the Toledo Federation.
“At this point, ISIS was more on the news than lately, and it’s been a scary time,” he told the CJN. “The community was… concerned. I would say that was the beginning of efforts to increase security and vigilance in Jewish institutions in Toledo. “
Acting US attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio described the crime as “heinous”.
“This is the first time in this district and the first time in this country that the support has been specifically targeted at a minority community, namely the Jewish community in Toledo,” said Brennan.
Regarding the sentencing agreement, Brennan said Joseph admits “that he tried to commit a civil rights violation, namely with a gun … to kill a rabbi and to commit a mass shooting in a synagogue in Toledo.”
Brennan said one charge would take 15 years and the other 20 years.
“Any time a person is targeted and there is a violation of civil rights, it is taken very seriously by our office and we will definitely pursue these cases,” Brennan said.
Special Agent in charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI Field Office in Cleveland spoke of Joseph’s radicalization over time.
“Within a few months, Damon Joseph went from being a self-radicalized virtual jihadist to planning an actual attack on other Americans,” Smith said in the press release. “Mr. Joseph is now responsible for his actions. … The FBI would like to remind the public to remain vigilant so we can continue to work together to thwart these types of threats.”