Irvine Man Pleads Guilty to Firebombing Planned Parenthood Clinic Plotting to Attack Electrical Substation in Orange County

An Orange County man pleaded guilty today to firebombing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa in March 2022 and planning to attack an electrical substation in Orange, and further admitted to plotting an attack on Dodger Stadium last year on a night celebrating LGBTQ pride.

Tibet Ergul, 22, of Irvine, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility and one misdemeanor count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility.

"This defendant's hateful ideology led him down a dark path of plotting to harm others," said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. "The breadth of his and his co-conspirators' violent plans is chilling. They planned to attack the power grid to start a race war, target Dodger Stadium on Pride Night, and bomb a second reproductive health services clinic. This reminds us of why it is critical that all of us unite against hate in our community."

"Mr. Ergul put lives at risk when he firebombed the clinic and yet continued to plan acts that had the potential to cause death and destruction," said Amir Ehsaei, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office. "Using terroristic violence to further an ideology is a serious crime with severe consequences and, as a result, Mr. Ergul faces significant jail time when sentenced for his cowardly choices."

"NCIS is committed to the interagency coordination as part of the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation," said Special Agent in Charge Todd Battaglia of the NCIS Marine West Field Office. "This case should serve as a warning to those who perpetrate acts of terror against our fellow Americans and hate that threatens access to reproductive health services."

According to his plea agreement, in February and March of 2022, Ergul and Chance Brannon, 24, of San Juan Capistrano, agreed to use a Molotov cocktail to damage a Planned Parenthood clinic in Orange County. Ergul and Brannon, who at the time was an active-duty United States Marine, targeted the clinic because it provided reproductive health services and they wanted to encourage others to engage in similar violent acts. Ergul and Brannon also wanted to make a statement about abortion; scare pregnant women away from obtaining abortions; deter doctors, staff and employees at the clinic from providing abortions; and intimidate the clinic's patients.

On March 12, 2022, in Ergul's garage, Ergul and Brannon knowingly assembled a Molotov cocktail. During the early morning hours of March 13, Ergul and Brannon – disguised in dark clothing, masks, hoods, and gloves – drove to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, ignited the Molotov cocktail and threw it at the clinic's entrance, intentionally starting a fire. Due to the fire and the damage it caused, the clinic was forced to temporarily close and reschedule approximately 30 patient appointments.

Ergul further admitted that in June 2022, following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, he and Brannon planned to use a second Molotov cocktail to attack another Planned Parenthood clinic. Ergul and Brannon abandoned this plan after seeing law enforcement near the targeted clinic.

Ergul also conspired with others, including Brannon, to damage a Southern California Edison electrical substation to debilitate Orange County's power grid. Ergul and his accomplices planned to attack the substation by using firearms or a Molotov cocktail that Ergul possessed in his garage. Ergul and Brannon consulted with an associate about surveillance, drone operations and firearms. In March 2023, Ergul messaged an associate to say he had found a substation in Orange to target. Ergul sent the associate aerial photographs of the substation and suggested doing a "drive-thru" at 3 a.m. Ergul also sent Brannon a letter in which he wrote: "The rifle is in a box in my room waiting to be used in the upcoming race war," and he discussed a desire to murder politicians and journalists. Ergul and Brannon did not carry out this attack prior to their arrest in this case.

During the early summer of 2023, Ergul and Brannon also discussed and researched how to attack the Dodger Stadium parking lot or the stadium's electrical room on a night celebrating LGBTQ pride, including by using a device that could be detonated remotely, Ergul admitted in his plea agreement. Brannon and Ergul exchanged sabotage manuals and discussed doing "dry runs" to "case" the stadium. Law enforcement arrested Ergul and Brannon two days before Dodger Stadium's scheduled "Pride Night."

The plea agreement in this case is "binding," which means the court must accept or reject all aspects of it. United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney scheduled a May 30 sentencing hearing, at which time he is expected to announce whether he will accept the agreement. Should the court reject the plea agreement, any party may withdraw from it. Should the court accept the plea agreement, Ergul will face a prison sentence ranging from 60 months to 78 months.

Ergul, who has been in federal custody since June 2023, is the third and final defendant to plead guilty in this case.

Brannon, who also has been in federal custody since June 2023, pleaded guilty in November to four crimes: conspiracy, malicious destruction of property by fire and explosives, possession of an unregistered destructive device, and intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility – a violation of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Brannon's sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 15.

Xavier Batten, 21, of Brooksville, Florida, who has been in federal custody since July 2023, pleaded guilty on January 19 to one count of possession of an unregistered destructive device and one count of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility. Batten's sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 15.

The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigated this matter. The Costa Mesa Police Department and the Costa Mesa Fire Department provided substantial assistance.

Assistant United States Attorney Kathrynne N. Seiden of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section is prosecuting this case with substantial assistance from Justice Department Trial Attorney Jacob Warren from the National Security Division's Counterterrorism Section.


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