Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts, who was arrested in July of 2018 for allegedly plotting a terror attack in Cleveland, is facing new charges after federal authorities said he threatened to kill President Donald Trump and his family.
According to the indictment, Pitts said he would chop off the president’s head and hands, and target his children as well.
Pitts, 49, from Maple Heights, Ohio, also goes by the aliases Abdur Raheem Rafeeq or Salah ad-Deen Osama Waleed.
The FBI-Cleveland Division’s Joint Terrorism Task has been investigating the case and prosecuted by the Northern District of Ohio.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Prosecutors: Pitts Threatened to Kidnap President Trump & Behead Him
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Ohio filed a superseding indictment against Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts on February 12, 2019. They added additional counts related to threats made against the president of the United States dating back to June of 2018. You can read the indictment in its entirety above.
According to the indictment, prosecutors say Pitts “did knowingly and willfully make a threat to take the life of, to kidnap, and to inflict bodily harm upon President Donald J. Trump, specifically that Defendant would ‘get’ the President by cutting off the President’s head and hands.”
2. Pitts is Accused of Threatening to Kill President Trump’s Children as an Additional Way of Hurting Him
Demetrius Pitts allegedly planned to target the president’s adult children as well. Prosecutors wrote in the indictment that Pitts threatened to kill Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and reportedly send their dead bodies back to President Trump.
The indictment alleges that Pitts “did knowingly and willfully make a threat to take the life of, to kidnap, and to inflict bodily harm upon a member of the immediate family of the President, to wit, the children of President Donald J. Trump, specifically that ‘a better way to get, to get him (the President) is to kill his kids. Kill his daughter, son-in-law. Kill ’em all. He (the President) come out ’cause you start killing his kids, chop their heads off… you send his kids back.'”
Prosecutors added two additional charges of making false statements to law enforcement to the indictment as well.
3. The FBI Began Investigating Pitts After Noticing Suspicious Online Activity
The FBI began watching Demetrius Nathaniel Pitts in 2016. According to the criminal affidavit, agents noticed a Facebook profile with the name Abdur Raheem Rafeeq, which turned out to be one of two aliases Pitts used. On December 31, 2015, he sent a message to “The Craig Sewing Show” which read, “F*ck America and there arm forces. The USA will be destroy. Allahu Akbar.”
On January 27, 2017, the FBI noticed that the “Abdur Raheem Rafeeq” user commented on pictures believed to be of a jihadist training camp. The comments read, “We as Muslims need to start. Train like this everyday. We need to known how to shoot guns. Throw hand grenades hand to hand combat. How survey out in the woods. Look at the bed blue eyed devils. They teach their little dogs on how to shoot and Hunt. If you fear death. Then don’t say you love Islam. The Rasool saw said. We should always be prepared to fight in the name of Allahu Akbar. All cowards stay home.”
The affidavit further states that by July of 2017, investigators were concerned that Pitts desired to act on the online rhetoric. Special Agent Andrew Wilson wrote that Pitts “expressed a desire to recruit people to kill Americans that were against Muslims and also stated he would have no remorse if he killed in the name of religion.” In February of 2018, Pitts allegedly “expressed interest in joining al Qaeda, and training overseas and returning to the U.S. to conduct an attack.”
4. Demetrius Pitts Was Arrested in July 2018 For Reportedly Plotting a Terror Attack in Cleveland for the July 4th Holiday
The FBI used an undercover agent, acting as an “al Qaeda brother” to approach Demetrius Pitts on June 15, 2018. The meeting took place in Willoughby, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland. In the recorded conversation, Pitts discussed beheading President Trump and cutting off his hands.
Later on in the conversation, Pitts began talking about ideas for potential attacks. He described people who wanted to target marathons as “dumb nuts” and said “leave them sports places alone.” Pitts also explained how to dispose of a dead body. He told the undercover agent that the right strategy is to “chop him up and just send his ass to that hog farm.” He also suggested tossing a body into the bayou when further south and letting alligators eat it. Pitts added that he felt he needed to kill someone in order to earn al Qaeda’s trust.
The undercover agent met with Pitts a second time on June 22, 2018. They discussed launching an attack in Cleveland during the July 4th holiday. Pitts was recorded saying, “What would hit them in the core? Blow up in the, have a bomb to blow up at the 4th of July parade.” They also looked up a map of downtown Cleveland and talked about where an “explosive device would have the most impact.”
On June 25, an FBI source provided Pitts with a bus pass and a phone so that Pitts could conduct surveillance of downtown Cleveland and report back. Pitts texted the undercover agent the next day, stating that he had finished the surveillance and that he wanted to “destroy the government.” He returned the phone on June 27. The FBI found videos on the phone that Pitts had recorded, in which he pledged allegiance to al Qaeda.
During another meeting on July 1 in Garfield Heights, Pitts discussed ideas for a future attack in Philadelphia. He was arrested at the end of that meeting. He was charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support or Resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
5. Demetrius Pitts is Scheduled to Face a Jury Trial in April 2019
Demetrius Pitts will face a jury trial. It was scheduled for April 3, 2019, in Cleveland. A final pretrial was also scheduled for March 20. Pitts’ attorneys may try to negotiate a plea agreemet before then.
The potential punishment if convicted of conspiring to assist a foreign terrorist organization is up to 20 years in prison. Threatening the President of the United States is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted.