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Suspect pleads guilty to planting bomb at Jacksonville synagogue

An Orthodox Jew pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges that he planted a bomb found at a synagogue where former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres spoke.

Harry Shapiro admitted he used an explosive to threaten a foreign official, internationally protected person and official guest of the U.S. government. No sentencing date was set for the gas station attendant and former kosher butcher.

"I placed gunpowder in a pipe," Shapiro said. "I placed it in a house of worship. I threatened a life of a human being with it. I called 911 and issued a threat to keep Mr. Peres from speaking."

By pleading guilty, Shapiro avoids a grand jury indictment of an additional federal charge of using an explosive in commission of a crime that could have netted him an additional 30 years in prison.

The grand jury met last week, but had yet to issue an indictment. Instead Shapiro will face a 10-year prison term.

"This ends it right here," said Hank Coxe, Shapiro's attorney, who confirmed all the details of the plea agreement.

Shapiro has been in the Duval County Jail on $1-million bail since his arrest on Feb. 24.

Coxe said Shapiro never intended to detonate an explosive and that, in fact, the pipe bomb was intentionally a dud.

"It couldn't have exploded," Coxe said. "He told law enforcement where the damn thing was and they never looked where he told them to . . . the intent was for it to be found."

About three hours before Peres' speech at Jacksonville Jewish Center, a caller to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office warned of two bombs. He identified himself as a member of American Friends of the Islamic Jihad.

Police think the device was planted Feb. 13, the day of Peres' visit, and then was missed by security teams from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, U.S. State Department and the Israeli delegation. Children found an apparent pipe bomb on Feb. 22.

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