The son of a Boston police captain was ordered held without bail until trial at a hearing Tuesday, one day after the release of a criminal complaint alleging that he plotted to detonate pressure-cooker bombs at an unidentified university and broadcast the executions of students live online in a move to support ISIS.
Alexander Ciccolo's father alerted authorities last fall that his son had a long history of mental illness and was talking about joining the Islamic State, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details.
Ciccolo, 23, of Adams, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed Monday with illegal possession of a firearm for receiving four guns July 4 from a person cooperating with the Western Massachusetts Joint Terrorism Task Force. Ciccolo was barred from having a gun because of a drunken driving conviction.
His father, Robert Ciccolo, is a 27-year veteran of the Boston police force.
Ciccolo appeared in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Tuesday afternoon for a detention hearing.
His attorney, David Hoose, argued that Ciccolo had no record of conviction for weapons and no record of violence and should be released to the custody of his mother and stepfather, where he could remain under house arrest on a GPS bracelet. Hoose said Ciccolo's beliefs "may be deemed vile, but those are beliefs." He urged the judge to focus on the charge his client is facing - a felon in possession of weapons charge - not the terror allegations.
Prosecutors, however, said they don't believe Ciccolo will listen to a judge's orders and should be held in custody. They said there is evidence to establish Ciccolo's risk of flight and dangerousness. Not only did he dedicate himself to ISIS's cause and killing as many people as he could, but he also stabbed a prison nurse with a pen after he was arrested.
"I don't think I can dismiss his attack on the nurse," U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson said before issuing her ruling. "He was quite clear orally and online what he was going to use those guns for ... an attack on students. His expressions of belief really lead me to question where he would have a commitment to showing up to court."
In court documents, the FBI said Ciccolo, also known as Abu Ali al Amriki, had talked with a cooperating witness in recorded conversations in June about his plans to commit acts inspired by the Islamic State.
Ciccolo initially talked about killing civilians, police officers and members of the U.S. military, but later said he wanted instead to attack a state university outside Massachusetts because more people would be there, according to the FBI. The FBI said the attack would include executions of students, broadcast live over the Internet.
The day before his arrest, agents watched Ciccolo at Walmart buying a pressure cooker similar to those used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the FBI said. He allegedly told the cooperating witness that the marathon bombings gave him the idea of using pressure-cooker bombs.
Ciccolo first came to the attention of the terrorism task force on Sept. 11 last year, when a close acquaintance — identified by the two law enforcement officials as Ciccolo's father — told the FBI that Ciccolo had expressed a desire to go overseas and fight for the Islamic State, according to court papers.
The acquaintance told the FBI that Ciccolo had a long history of mental illness and in the last 18 months "had become obsessed with Islam."
The FBI said Ciccolo told the cooperating witness he planned to attack the university with assault rifles and explosives, focusing on dorms and the cafeteria during lunch because it would be packed with people.
He also allegedly said that if a student was a Muslim, "he would be permitted to help, sit tight or leave."