Justin Sullivan

Justin Sullivan is a U.S. citizen, convert to Islam, and attempted domestic terrorist. In late June 2015, Sullivan was arrested at his North Carolina home and charged with attempting to carry out a domestic attack on behalf of ISIS.Pete Williams, “ISIS-Inspired Suspect Justin Nojan Sullivan Was Turned in By Dad,” NBC News, June 22, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/isis-inspired-suspect-justin-nolan-sullivan-was-turned-dad-n379721. Separately, Sullivan is suspected of killing his neighbor, John Bailey Clark, in order to steal money for the attack. Sullivan pleaded guilty to federal terrorism charges on November 29, 2016, and in July 2017 he pleaded guilty in state court to Clark’s murder.Associated Press, “North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty in Shooting Death,” ABC 13 News, July 17, 2017, https://wlos.com/news/local/nc-man-imprisoned-for-is-inspired-plot-faces-murder-charge; Rachel Weiner, “20-year-old says he planned ISIS terror attacks in Virginia, North Carolina,” Washington Post, November 30, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/20-year-old-planned-terrorist-attack-in-virginia-or-north-carolina/2016/11/29/cb4084f2-b660-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?utm_term=.6d61263fdd80. In 2017 he was sentenced to life in federal prison on the terrorist charge.“North Carolina Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Attempting to Commit an Act of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries,” U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs, June 27, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/north-carolina-man-sentenced-life-prison-attempting-commit-act-terrorism-transcending.

Sullivan reportedly began watching ISIS material online beginning in September 2014. At some point before his June 2015 arrest, he is believed to have made contact online with Junaid Hussain, a British foreign fighter, computer hacker, and recruiter for ISIS who was targeted and killed in a U.S. airstrike in August 2015. According to U.S. officials, Hussain asked Sullivan to film a video of his attack for use by ISIS.“UK jihadist Junaid Hussain killed in Syria drone strike, says US,” BBC News, August 27, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-34078900. In early 2015, Sullivan began destroying his family’s Buddhist figurines including by pouring gasoline on them in order to burn them, according to the criminal complaint. Sullivan’s family notified law enforcement about his erratic behavior in April 2015.“United States of America v. Justin Nojan Sullivan,” U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina,” June 22, 2015, 4, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/479816/download;
Pete Williams, “ISIS-Inspired Suspect Justin Nojan Sullivan Was Turned in By Dad,” NBC News, June 22, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/isis-inspired-suspect-justin-nolan-sullivan-was-turned-dad-n379721.

An undercover FBI officer made contact online with Sullivan on June 6, 2015. In a conversation with the agent, Sullivan referred to himself as a “mujahid,” (holy warrior), according to the criminal complaint. The two men discussed plotting a lone wolf attack in the United States as well as purchasing or building a gun silencer. In addition, Sullivan asked the agent to kill Sullivan’s parents—offering to send him money and their location.“United States of America v. Justin Nojan Sullivan,” U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina,” June 22, 2015, 4-11, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/479816/download. Sullivan also discussed using biological weapons—including by coating bullets with cyanide and detonating a “gas bomb”—in order to kill 1,000 people at a bar, club, or concert.Pete Williams, “ISIS-Inspired Suspect Justin Nojan Sullivan Was Turned in By Dad,” NBC News, June 22, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/isis-inspired-suspect-justin-nolan-sullivan-was-turned-dad-n379721;
“United States of America v. Justin Nojan Sullivan,” U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina,” June 22, 2015, 4, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/479816/download.
Sullivan told the FBI agent that “the war is here,” and gave him the opportunity to join what he called the “Islamic State of North America” whose “doctrine is Guerilla Warfare in and out,” according to the criminal complaint.“United States of America v. Justin Nojan Sullivan,” U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina,” June 22, 2015, 7, https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/479816/download.

Approximately two weeks after making contact with Sullivan, the FBI arrested him and charged him with attempting to provide material support to ISIS.“N.C. man charged in plot to kill Americans of behalf of ISIS,” CBS News, June 22, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/north-carolina-man-charged-in-plot-to-kill-americans-of-behalf-of-isis/.

In August 2016, Sullivan was also charged with the murder and robbery of his 74-year-old neighbor, John Bailey Clark. Investigators claim that in December 2014, Sullivan stole his stepfather’s gun and broke into his neighbor’s home, shot him in the head, and buried him. Prosecutors believe that Sullivan planned to use his neighbor’s money to purchase weapons for future terrorist attacks.Carla Field, “ISIS-supporting teen killed NC neighbor, planned mass murder, feds say,” WYFF4, August 24, 2016, http://www.wyff4.com/article/isis-supporting-teen-killed-nc-neighbor-planned-mass-murder-feds-say/7024054.

On November 29, 2016, Sullivan pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of “attempting to commit an act of terrorism transcending national boundaries,”“North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Commit An Act of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries,” U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs, November 29, 2016, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/north-carolina-man-pleads-guilty-attempting-commit-act-terrorism-transcending-national. and on June 27, 2017, he was sentenced to life in federal prison.“North Carolina Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Attempting to Commit an Act of Terrorism Transcending National Boundaries,” U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Public Affairs, June 27, 2017, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/north-carolina-man-sentenced-life-prison-attempting-commit-act-terrorism-transcending.

On July 17, 2017, Sullivan pleaded guilty in a Burke County, North Carolina court to killing Clark. As part of a plea agreement, state prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty against Sullivan for the killing. He was sentenced to life in state prison on the murder, which will be served on top of his federal life sentence.Associated Press, “North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty in Shooting Death,” ABC 13 News, July 17, 2017, https://wlos.com/news/local/nc-man-imprisoned-for-is-inspired-plot-faces-murder-charge; Sharon McBrayer, “UPDATE: Justin Sullivan Agrees to Plea Deal in Murder of John Bailey Clark,” Morganton News Herald, March 15, 2019, https://morganton.com/news/update-justin-sullivan-agrees-to-plea-deal-in-murder-of-john-bailey-clark/article_8c406f24-6b37-11e7-9f4a-43be7b41bc8b.html.

Sullivan is currently incarcerated at Terra Haute Federal Correctional Institution in Indiana.“JUSTIN NOJAN SULLIVAN,” Find an Inmate – Federal Bureau of Prisons, accessed April 12, 2021, https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/.

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