The Morganton man accused of supporting a terrorist group and killing his neighbor is expected to have a plea hearing Tuesday in Asheville.
The plea hearing for Justin Nojan Sullivan is set for 9 a.m. in Courtroom 1 of the federal courthouse in Asheville, according to court documents. The hearing is expected to be in front of U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger.
In October, Sullivan’s trial date was moved to the Jan. 3 trial term. However, if he takes a plea deal today, a trial won’t be necessary.
In August, Sullivan waived his right to appear at an arraignment hearing after a federal grand jury indicted him on nine counts, including attempted material support of a designated foreign terrorist organization and lying to federal agents.
Sullivan was indicted for lying to agents when he was questioned about whether he knew anything about the shooting death of his neighbor, John Bailey Clark. Clark, who was 74 years old when he died, was found on Dec. 18, 2014 buried in a shallow grave behind his house. He had been shot in the head three times with a small-caliber gun.
Sullivan is accused of stealing a .22-caliber rifle from his father and using it to kill Clark. The federal government says forensic testing shows the rifle was used to murder Clark. In February, a Burke County grand jury indicted Sullivan for the murder.
After initially lying to agents about having a rifle, an FBI search found muddy clothes, a .22-caliber rifle, a black ski mask and a lock pick kit hidden in the crawl space of his parent’s home, along with a silencer. The indictment said Sullivan admitted on June 20, 2015 that he stole the rifle from his father’s gun cabinet and hid it in the crawl space.
When FBI agents arrested Sullivan on June 19, 2015, they found $689 on him, which he later admitted was Clark’s, according to federal indictments. Federal information has said Sullivan planned to use that money to buy an AR-15 rifle at a Hickory gun show, but he was arrested before the gun show. On June 17, he attempted to buy hollow point bullets from a gun dealer to use with the rifle, court documents say.
He planned to carry out an attack at a concert, bar or club where he believed as many as 1,000 people could be killed, documents say.
Sullivan also is accused of lending support to ISIL, and actually making contact with Syrian-based Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant member Junaid Hussain, a/k/a “Abu Hussain Al-Britani,” through Hussain’s social media account, according to federal documents.
“ Justin Sullivan had elaborate plans to kill hundreds of innocent people to show his support for the terrorist organization, ISIL,” Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong said in a release in February. “During the course of our investigation, evidence was uncovered linking Sullivan to John Bailey Clark’s murder six months earlier. Any loss of life is tragic; due to the work of the FBI and our law enforcement partners, other planned attacks were thwarted preventing more violence.”
Sullivan has been held in an area jail since his arrest.
Sharon McBrayer is a staff writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828-432-8946.