Man who admitted to plotting mass murders at Chicago-area houses of worship sentenced to 15 years

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Man who admitted to murder plots at houses of worship gets 15 years
The sentence is in for man who admitted to making homemade bombs and plotting to attack a mosque and other places of worship in Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A would-be terrorist received the maximum sentence Monday after admitting he had plans to commit mass murders at Chicago area houses of worship.

Xavier Pelkey, a 20-year-old from Waterville, Maine was sentenced to the maximum 15 years in federal prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release, for conspiring to provide material support to the terrorism group ISIS.

ABC7 I-Team investigative reporter Chuck Goudie has been following this case for nearly two years.

When the FBI raided Pelkey's family home in Maine, court records detailed how they found an inventory of homemade bombs, ISIS flags hanging on the teenager's bedroom wall and evidence of a plot to attack a mosque and other places of worship in Chicago.

SEE ALSO | New details revealed in suspected terror plot targeting Chicago area mosques and synagogues

Pelkey was only 18 years old at the time, but he had been radicalized by overseas terrorist websites and propaganda according to federal law enforcement. Then, he recruited two teenage accomplices, one in Chicago and one in Canada, to help with an attack plot in Chicago, nearly 1,200 miles away.

In the plot, Pelkey became known as "the bomb guy."

At the federal courthouse in Bangor, Maine, Pelkey was asking for a six-year sentence after pleading guilty. The government wanted a maximum 15 years.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker handed down the maximum sentence of 15 years.

"It actually is a little unusual to get the maximum after a plea of guilty particularly when you're dealing with arguments on the defense that were not frivolous. He was very young when it happened. He did have an abusive upbringing. There's a story to be told there. So it is a little bit unusual," said former federal prosecutor in Chicago and ABC7 Chief Legal Analyst Gil Soffer.

READ MORE | More charges against teen for ISIS-inspired plot show threat to Chicago may have been more serious

Prosecutors told the I-Team the judge apparently could not get past the notion that scores of people in Chicago would have been killed had the FBI not intercepted this plot.

"I think there's a few things going on here. That explains this very relatively high sentence. One is exactly that. What the judge said, had this actually occurred that would have been devastating and killed many innocent people. Obviously, that's an enormous factor weighing in the outcome here. I think the other factor is, things don't happen in a vacuum. We just saw a horrific mass shooting in Maine, the state where he was convicted. We know what's happening in the world more broadly, when it comes to hate crimes. It really is a perfect storm against him," said Soffer.

The two underage accomplices that were never named or charged in the Pelkey terror case may never be.

Federal prosecutor Craig Wolff declined to discuss whether there is still an open investigation, and he said Monday's case is what U.S. justice officials have brought.

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