MIAMI – A man accepted a plea deal Wednesday for plotting a terror attack at a Jewish community center in Aventura last year on Yom Kippur.
As part of the plea agreement, James Medina, of Hollywood, pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against persons or property and attempting to deface, damage and destroy religious property.
Medina initially hesitated to admit guilt, at times telling the judge he was "manipulated" to plan the attack. In the end, he agreed to the terms and said, "I am guilty."
Medina will be sentenced to 25 years for each count, which will be served concurrently, followed by supervised release.
"Acts of bigotry and hatred are evil and have no place in our society," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "One of the top priorities of this Department of Justice is reducing violent crime, and you can be sure that this includes hate crime. We will not tolerate this repugnant lawlessness, and we will be vigilant in prosecuting hate crime offenders to the fullest extent of the law."
Medina appeared during Wednesday's hearing with his two defense attorneys. Two relatives also appeared in court.
During the hearing, it was revealed that Medina is taking medication for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
His defense team said his psychotic episodes are caused by an arachnoid cyst.
The plea agreement stated that Medina will be sent to a medical ward inside a prison for as long as the doctors there believe he needs treatment. He will then be placed into the general population if the doctors believe he is mentally stable.
According to a U.S. criminal complaint, the FBI began investigating Medina in March 2016, after he told an undercover agent that he planned to attack a synagogue.
During the course of several conversations with the confidential informant, Medina said he planned to strike the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, FBI Special Agent David Clancy said in the criminal complaint.
Medina "confirmed his desire to conduct the attack using AK-47 assault rifles," the complaint said.
After the confidential informant suggested that the attack could look as though it was orchestrated by the Islamic State terrorist group, Medina liked the idea, saying, "Yeah, we can print up or something and make it look like it's ISIS here in America," the complaint said.
The undercover agent recorded numerous conversations with Medina, who in one recording is heard saying, "I am a Muslim, and I don't like what is going on in this world. I'm going to handle business here in America. Aventura, watch your back. ISIS is in the house."
Medina is expected to be sentenced on Nov. 17.