CHICAGO – A young Lebanese immigrant awaiting sentencing for placing a backpack he thought held a bomb near Chicago's Wrigley Field wrote a letter to the judge saying he drank "all day, every day" for months before the would-be attack.
In a seven page letter to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, Sami Samir Hassoun apologizes and insists he has worked hard at becoming a better person, including by taking yoga instruction in jail.
The letter was included in a defense filing this week. Hassoun, in custody since his 2010 arrest, is scheduled to be sentenced April 5.
Prosecutors want a 30-year prison sentence for the 25-year-old, who pleaded guilty to weapons charges last year. The defense filing argues Hassoun deserves no more than 20 years, in part because they contend he was egged on by an FBI informant to concoct the bombing scheme.
In his plea agreement, Hassoun admitted he dropped what he believed was a bomb into a trash bin on a crowded street by the Chicago Cubs' stadium in 2010. The fake device was given to him by undercover FBI agents who had been tipped off by the informant.
In the letter — dated Oct. 12, 2012, but released publicly this week — Hassoun tells Gettleman, "I am so ashamed of my actions and of this horrific crime that I've committed."
He describes feeling despondent and confused with his new life as a bakery worker, frustrated by broken dreams of becoming rich after he and his parents moved to the U.S. from Lebanon in 2008.
"By two to three months before my crime, I was drinking all day, every day," he wrote. "I would open a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black in the morning and finish it by evening, while also drinking vodka and beer."
He smoked marijuana regularly and sometimes used cocaine and ecstasy, he wrote.
Hassoun said he has confronted his self-destructiveness, has taken anger-management courses and is working toward a degree through a University of Ohio program designed for inmates.
Hassoun, who was born in Beruit, blamed what he described as longstanding emotional issues, in part, on trauma that lingered with him since childhood living in Ivory Coast when bloody civil strife broke out in that African nation.
"I witnessed all these horrific and barbaric scenes and images from the balcony of our apartment," he wrote. "I lived in constant fear, hearing rumors that they were invading homes, and raping women and kids."
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