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Ocala man suspected of planning 'terrorist act' sentenced to 15 years

Jonathan Beese stole weapons, searched for ISIS material, court documents show

Jonathan Beese, 21, of Ocala, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday Sept. 12, 2018. Authorities say he stole a high-powered weapon and was searching for lone wolf terrorism online.
Jonathan Beese, 21, of Ocala, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday Sept. 12, 2018. Authorities say he stole a high-powered weapon and was searching for lone wolf terrorism online.

OCALA, Fla. – An Ocala man who was the focus of a two-year FBI terrorism investigation was sentenced to 15 years in prison Wednesday.

Jonathan Beese, 20, was adjudicated guilty in connection with charges that he stole high-powered weapons from his girlfriend's father.

A spokesperson for the Marion County Sheriff's Office said an investigation into Beese was first launched in 2015 when his mother found writings on his computer relating to the Islamic State group and Islamic extremism.

According to court documents, an analysis of Beese's laptops showed he researched material about "lone wolf" terrorism, explosives, firearms and how to carry out attacks.

Investigators said Beese was not charged at the time, but remained under surveillance.

In February 2017, deputies said Beese, with the help of his girlfriend, Kristen Sparks, 21, stole an AK-47 and two other rifles from her father.

A month later, records show Beese climbed to the top of the seven-story Ocala National Bank Building and sent a Facebook message to Sparks, which stated he "found a good spot up here for a snipers nest."

Beese and Sparks were arrested in April 2017 on armed burglary and theft charges, but the FBI did not pursue federal charges related to terrorism.

"We used whatever charge we were able to get on any criminal act to effectively and quickly disrupt this individual before a terrorist act could be committed," Special Agent in Charge Charles Spencer said.

In May, Sparks pleaded no contest and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Beese's 15-year sentence includes a three-year minimum mandatory before he can apply for parole. Once released, he will be placed on lifetime probation.


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