The arrest of the son of a prominent attorney in Philadelphia on various terrorism-related charges has made news around the world.
On August 14th, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the arrest of the seventeen-year-old suspect.
According to Krasner, the juvenile, not named due to his age, was arrested by FBI SWAT agents at his home in West Philadelphia. An investigation by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes detailed Philadelphia Police detectives, led the FBI to the activities of the youth.
The District Attorney’s Office has charged the juvenile with Weapons of Mass Destruction, Criminal Conspiracy, Arson, Causing/Risking Catastrophe, Attempt to Commit Criminal Mischief, Possession of an Instrument of Crime, and Recklessly Endangering Another Person.
“The work of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force potentially thwarted a catastrophic terrorist attack in the name of a perverted ideology that in no way, shape, or form represents the beliefs of the overwhelming majority of peace-seeking people of faith, including Muslims,” District Attorney Larry Krasner said. “The charges we have filed against this individual represent the most serious alleged terrorist activity prosecuted in Philadelphia County court in recent history. We intend to pursue full accountability for these crimes and will continue to work vigilantly with our law enforcement partners to protect all of our communities from hateful, ideologically driven acts of violence.”
Jacqueline Maguire, the FBI Special Agent in Charge of Philadelphia Office, added, “Protecting the United States from terrorist attacks is the FBI’s number one priority, and I think it’s very fair to say that lives were saved because of this investigation.
“Investigations like this one – with the amazing work that continues and the successful mitigation of such a significant threat – are exactly why we do what we do, and yet another reminder of what a privilege it is to serve with such dedicated colleagues. I’m so proud of my team for their incredible work on this case, and thankful to our partners for their significant and continued assistance.”
Maguire went on to state that the juvenile is alleged to have been in contact with individuals and groups designated by the U.S. State Department as global terrorists, including Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (“KTJ”), which is believed to primarily operate in Syria and is responsible for attacks including the deadly April 2017 attack on the St. Petersburg, Russia, metro and the 2016 suicide car bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigators were able to connect a social media account that communicated with an account affiliated with KTJ in March and April of 2023 to the juvenile. The juvenile’s phone number was also found by investigators to have a banner of Riyad-us-Saliheen Martyrs’ Brigade, a Chechnya-based terrorist group, as its profile photo. On August 6, according to the Task Force, the juvenile’s WhatsApp profile photo was changed to the image of the ISIS banner.
“Self-radicalization by young people via the internet is a threat to all families. Parents: Keep an eye out for violent cults that would lure in your kids under the guise of politics or religion,” Krasner stated. “The juvenile is further alleged to have received messages related to construction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and to have purchased materials online such as chemical cleaners that are used to construct IEDs, as well as outdoor or tactical gear.”
FBI special agents surveilling the juvenile observed him purchasing materials that can be used to make IEDs, and recovered from his household trash materials including electric wiring that can be used to construct IEDs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection provided records revealing fourteen international shipments of military and tactical gear to the juvenile’s address.
A warrant for the juvenile’s arrest was approved on August 11th, and the juvenile was arrested, and two residences tied to him were searched by federal agents.
Krasner stated that if the juvenile’s case is transferred by a judge to adult criminal court, more information related to the allegations against him will be available to the public.
I was curious as to why the suspect was being prosecuted by the Philadelphia DA rather than the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Cases like this are usually prosecuted at the federal level.
I contacted both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DA’s office and inquired why the case was being prosecuted by the Philadelphia DA, but neither office has responded to my question.
I reached out to investigative reporter Ralph Cipriano, who offers his comprehensive reporting on crime, court cases and the Philly DA in his Big Trial articles on Substack. I asked him if he knew why Krasner was prosecuting the case.
“I am told that the feds want nothing to do with prosecuting juveniles, so they are happy to leave it to the DA’s office to handle,” Cipriano replied. “I’m hearing the feds may want to charge the parents of the terrorist, especially the Mom, but Krasner has already expressed publicly no interest in doing that, saying his office doesn’t believe in ‘guilt by association.’ However, I imagine the feds, if they decide to charge the parents, could do so without having to bother with dealing with the DA’s office.”
Cipriano noted that the suspect’s mother co-signed her son’s passport application and also took her son to Lowe’s to shop for chemicals that might be used in a homemade bomb.
“Dad gave him access to more than 50 guns. Both Mom and Dad had to be aware that their son was setting off homemade bombs in the backyard, as even the D.A. charged him with arson. Seems understandable to me that the feds might decide to pursue charges against one or both of the parents. But don’t expect Krasner to do anything,” Cipriano said.
I suspect and hope that the juvenile will be prosecuted as an adult due to his being nearly eighteen and the seriousness of the crimes. He is certainly old enough to be held accountable.
When I was seventeen, I was in the U.S. Navy, serving on an aircraft carrier.
Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the On Crime column for the Washington Times. He can be reached via www.pauldavisoncrime.com.