Intelligence expert talks 'Dylann Roof copycat' suspect's court appearance

Intelligence expert talks 'Dylann Roof copycat' suspect's court appearance

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - Benjamin McDowell, the 29-year-old man the FBI believes may have had plans to carry out a Dylann Roof-style attack, will be in federal court in Florence on Tuesday.

Ahead of that appearance, Joseph Fitsanakis, Coastal Carolina University's assistant professor of intelligence and national security studies, previewed what could happen during the hearing.

"The lawyers for this young man might try to make a claim that our guy was stating that he wants to go and blow up a church or a synagogue or something like that, but he didn't actually intend to do it," Fitsanakis said. "He was just sort of talking, right?"

According to Fitsanakis, if this case goes to a full trial, he can see it going both ways. One, McDowell's lawyers may argue he was enticed by the FBI, or that it was an invasion of privacy to dig so deep into his Facebook account.

Two, the FBI had to act in the manner that they acted, because if not, something terrible could have happened.

"That is something that has been tried before in court," Fitsanakis said. "But I can tell you typically most courts will side with the FBI, not with the lawyers of the defendant."

He said the case will ultimately come down to the other evidence the FBI obtained during its investigation. He added it also raises the question of where is the line drawn between a citizen's privacy and a government investigation.

However, he imagines the FBI is building its case up.

"This is somewhat controversial, much more than if, say, he had actually done something like Dylann Roof actually did," Fitsanakis said.

WMBF News will have live reports from the federal courthouse starting Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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