Idaho man accused of planning church attacks in support of ISIS pleads not guilty to terrorism charge

Apr 10, 2024, 7:48 PM | Updated: 8:13 pm

The 18-year-old accused of pledging allegiance to ISIS and planning attacks against churches in I...

Alexander Scott Mercurio claimed to support ISIS as he planned to attack Idaho churches. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday. (Jenny Kane/AP via CNN Newsource)

(Jenny Kane/AP via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — The 18-year-old accused of pledging allegiance to ISIS and planning attacks against churches in Idaho pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a federal terrorism charge, according to the court docket.

Alexander Scott Mercurio pleaded not guilty to attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization during a court appearance Wednesday, the docket shows.

The FBI arrested Mercurio Saturday – the day before authorities say he planned to attack a church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, using “flame-covered weapons, explosives, knives, a machete, a pipe, and ultimately firearms.”

A jury trial is scheduled for May 28, while a pretrial conference in the case is set for May 14, according to the docket. The Justice Department said in a news release Monday that he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

CNN has reached out to Mercurio’s attorney for comment.

According to court documents, Mercurio had online and in-person meetings with a confidential source working with the FBI and “proceeded to express his support for terrorist organizations, specifically ISIS.”

He planned to attack a church on April 7, a date he selected so that it would occur before the conclusion of Ramadan, FBI Task Force officer John Taylor said in an affidavit.

Mercurio allegedly brought butane canisters and a metal pipe, and he planned to “harm his father and acquire firearms” to use in the attack, according to court documents. Days before the planned attack, he recorded a statement pledging his allegiance to ISIS.

During a search of his parents’ home, police found “items consistent with his planned attack,” court documents stated. Some of the items found in a toolbox included a “metal pipe, handcuffs, folding saw, head coverings, two cannisters of butane fuel, and machete.” Multiple rifles and handguns were also discovered in his father’s bedroom.

Mercurio “stated he intended to incapacitate his father with a pipe, handcuff him, and use the firearms locked in the closet to attack the church,” court documents say.

A US law enforcement official previously told CNN that investigators believed Mercurio’s alleged efforts to carry out an attack intensified following the March attack that killed 144 people at a concert hall complex near Moscow. US officials have tied the attack to ISIS-K, an affiliate that operates in central Asia and has become one of the region’s most brutal and feared terror groups.

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Idaho man accused of planning church attacks in support of ISIS pleads not guilty to terrorism charge