A Boston police captain’s son whom federal prosecutors called “a soldier of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” was sentenced to 20 years in prison Wednesday.
Alexander Ciccolo, 26, was sentenced in Springfield in connection with “a plot to engage in terrorist activity inspired by and in the name of ISIS,” according to a statement from the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts.
Ciccolo, formerly of Adams, “heeded the call of ISIS to commit terrorist attacks in the United States,” federal prosecutors said.
“Alexander Ciccolo planned to kill innocent civilians in the United States on ISIS’s behalf,” said Andrew E. Lelling, the US attorney for Massachusetts, in a statement. “Even though he was born and spent most of his life in Massachusetts, Ciccolo decided to turn against his country and plotted to attack his fellow Americans.”
Federal judge Mark G. Mastroianni on Wednesday sentenced him to 20 years behind bars and a lifetime of supervised release, according to the attorney’s office.
That sentence “holds him accountable for breaking our laws and putting American lives at risk,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said in a statement.
When he was arrested in July 2015, Ciccolo was planning to attack a university using firearms and improvised explosives, and tried to recruit others to help him in his attack plan, federal authorities say.
In May, Ciccolo pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, one count of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction, one count of being a convicted person in possession of firearms, and one count of assaulting a nurse during a jail intake process by use of a deadly weapon causing bodily injury.
According to court records and investigators, Ciccolo was arrested in 2015 after his father, Captain Robert Ciccolo, alerted the FBI about his son’s desire to fight for the Islamic State. Undercover agents and cooperating witnesses made contact with Alexander Ciccolo after receiving the tip.
During their meetings and online correspondence, the younger Ciccolo discussed plots to attack several targets in New Mexico, including a state university, police station, and gay-friendly bar, legal filings show.
“He repeatedly expressed his desire to engage in acts of violent jihad against our country, and with this sentencing, he will now pay the price for conspiring with a foreign terrorist organization,” said Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge in the FBI’s Boston division, in a Wednesday statement.
On July 4, 2015, an FBI witness supplied Ciccolo with two rifles and two handguns, and Ciccolo was arrested while carrying the weapons back to his apartment, according to federal authorities. He also had a 5-inch blade in a sheath on his belt.
A search of Ciccolo’s apartment yielded several Molotov cocktails, two machetes, and a long curved knife, federal officials say. He had also bought a pressure cooker that was similar to what was used in the Boston Marathon bombings.
In addition, he repeatedly stabbed a nurse with a pen at the Franklin County Correctional Facility after his arrest.
“The Nurse immediately ran from the room clutching her head and screaming,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum last week. “Thus, in addition to planning to commit acts of violence, Ciccolo had put his threats of inflicting pain on innocent Americans into action.”
Prosecutors noted that the case had taken a toll on Ciccolo’s father. Robert Ciccolo, prosecutors said, made a “heartbreaking” decision to alert the FBI and “understood that his son would likely be incarcerated for a long time, but also understood that he could be preventing harm to innocent people. In reaching the agreement with the defendant, the government recognizes the agonizing decision Captain Ciccolo made, which the government believes likely saved the lives of numerous innocent people. Through the plea agreement, the government also hopes to encourage others to . . . report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”
Ciccolo’s lawyers said in a separate filing that their troubled client has battled mental health and substance abuse issues and that his attack plans were “primitive, ever-changing, and poorly thought-out.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.