An Ohio man was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and attempting to commit a hate crime, for planning an attack on a synagogue in the Toledo, Ohio area.
Damon M. Joseph, aka Abdullah Ali Yusuf, 23, of Holland, Ohio, pleaded guilty in May 2021. According to court documents, in 2018, Joseph drew the attention of law enforcement by posting photographs of weapons and various messages in support of ISIS on his social media accounts, as well as a photograph originally distributed by the media wing of ISIS.
“Inspired by ISIS, Damon Joseph planned to conduct a deadly terrorist attack at a synagogue in Ohio. He hoped to cause mass casualties by selecting a time when numerous innocent victims would be present. For this conduct, he will now spend 20 years in prison,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “We are committed to identifying, disrupting, and holding accountable individuals who seek to engage in such attacks. I commend the agents, analysts, and prosecutors who identified the threat posed by this defendant and took action to protect the public from his plans.”
“The defendant planned to cause significant harm to members of the Toledo, Ohio, Jewish community by carrying out a violent federal hate crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This sentence should send a strong message that those who target people with violence because of their religion, will be held to account. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who use violence to attack our religious communities.”
“Today, Damon Joseph was sentenced to 20 years of incarceration and a lifetime term of supervised release for attempting to support ISIS through violent attacks on Jewish congregants, including children, and any first responders who sought to protect and assist them,” said U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan of the Northern District of Ohio. “It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous plot, let alone reconcile that this plot involved violating our country’s solemn obligation to protect the civil rights of every person in an effort to support a foreign terrorist organization. This case should serve as a reminder to anyone considering a similar path: the Department of Justice remains committed to bringing every person who supports a foreign terrorist organization or commits a hate crime to justice.”
“In a matter of months, Damon Joseph progressed from a self-radicalized, virtual jihadist to planning an actual attack on fellow Americans,” said Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office. “Mr. Joseph will now serve time behind bars for his actions. In the name of ISIS, Joseph planned a mass-casualty attack against citizens simply wanting to attend their desired houses of worship, which were two Toledo-area synagogues. Joseph’s terroristic actions are antithetical to a just and free society, and he will serve a lengthy sentence as a result. The FBI would like to remind the public to remain vigilant so we can continue to thwart these types of threats together.”
Beginning in September 2018, Joseph engaged in a series of online conversations with several undercover FBI agents where he repeatedly stated and affirmed his support for ISIS and produced propaganda which he believed was to be used for ISIS recruitment efforts.
Over the next few weeks, Joseph stated to an undercover agent that he wanted to participate in an attack on behalf of ISIS. On Dec. 2, 2018, Joseph forwarded a document to the agent that laid out his plans for such an attack on “Jews who support state of Israel.” Joseph then stated that he did not necessarily see this as “a martyrdom operation” as his plan accounted for an escape and potential combat with law enforcement.
On Dec. 4, Joseph met with an undercover FBI agent and discussed conducting a mass shooting at a synagogue. Joseph identified two synagogues in the greater Toledo area as potential targets and discussed the types of weapons he believed would inflict mass casualties. Joseph made written notes about the firearms he wanted and provided them to the undercover agent, stating he wanted AR 15s, AK 47, Glock handguns and ammunition.
On Dec. 6, Joseph again met with an undercover agent to discuss his plans. Joseph stated specifically that he wanted to kill a rabbi and wrote the name and address of the synagogue where the attack was to occur and stated that he had conducted research to determine when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present.
Later that day, the undercover agent told Joseph that he had purchased rifles for the attack. The two met on Dec. 7 at a predetermined location, where Joseph took possession of a black duffel bag containing two semi-automatic rifles, which had been rendered inoperable by law enforcement officers so that they posed no danger to the public. Joseph was then arrested.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of over 50 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Baeppler and Jerome Teresinski of the Northern District of Ohio and Trial Attorneys Alexandra Hughes and Joshua Champagne of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, as well as AeJean Cha of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.