CLEVELAND, Ohio — A grand jury indicted a man on terrorism charges Wednesday, following his arrest last year on suspicion that he plotted to park a van full of explosives near a downtown Cleveland park where spectators planned to watch 4th of July fireworks.
Demetrius Pitts, 49, is charged with attempting to provide material support to al-Qaida. The FBI said Pitts corresponded with an undercover agent and scoped out an area to park a van full of explosives near Voinovich Park on Independence day.
He also liked this location because it was near a U.S. Coast Guard station, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Celebrezze Federal Building, according to federal prosecutors.
Pitts also goes by Abdur Raheem Rafeeq and Salah ad-Deem Osama Waleed, authorities said. He previously lived in Cincinnati and Philadelphia and who was living at a Maple Heights rehabilitation facility at the time of his arrest.
Grand jury indictments are generally supposed to be filed within a month of a person’s arrest on federal charges. However, defendants can grant extensions to that deadline, and Pitts did so. Prosecutors and Pitts’ federal public defender indicated in July that they had some discussions though did not say what the discussions entailed.
Pitts also underwent a competency evaluation, and a federal magistrate judge deemed him competent to stand trial. He also tried to fire his court-appointed federal public defender Charles Fleming, though he withdrew that request on Monday.
Fleming did not immediately respond to a voicemail left Thursday.
Pitts has criminal convictions stretching back to 1989, including for robbery, domestic violence and theft.
The statements the FBI said Pitts made about violent attacks or an allegiance to al-Qaida were mostly to agents or confidential informants, according to court filings. An informant gave Pitts a bus pass to travel downtown and scope out potential targets, as well as a cellphone he later used to text an undercover agent, authorities said.
He told an undercover agent that he wanted to “destroy the government,” and had expressed a desire to kill Americans, according to federal prosecutors.
Then-FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen Anthony declined to say during a news conference announcing Pitts’ arrest whether the suspect had access to, or was capable of making, an explosive. Pitts had the “desire and intent” to conduct the attack, Anthony said.
Pitts’ case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr.
To read the entire 30-page complaint against Pitts, read our previous post and scroll to the bottom.