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    Irvine man who firebombed Planned Parenthood clinic gets 6 years in prison
    • May 30, 2024

    An Irvine man who firebombed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa and plotted but did not carry out attacks at an electrical substation in Orange and at Dodger Stadium during an LGBTQ pride event was sentenced Thursday to six years in federal prison.

    Tibet Ergul, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one felony count of conspiracy to damage an energy facility and one misdemeanor account of intentional damage to a reproductive health services facility. Two co-defendant’s of Ergul also accepted plea deals and have been sentenced to prison time.

    In the early morning hours of March 12, 2022, Ergul and Chance Brannon — a 24-year-old from San Juan Capistrano who at the time was an active-duty Marine — ignited a Molotov cocktail and threw it against the front door of the Costa Mesa Planned Parenthood Clinic.

    The two men — who were wearing masks — ran off as the flames spread from a wall next to the clinic door up to the ceiling. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze without injury. But damage from the fire forced the clinic to cancel around 30 appointments the following day.

    A $25,000 reward for information was offered by federal officials. A tipster provided the FBI with a text message in which Ergul allegedly admitted to his role in the firebombing.

    A search of Ergul and Brannon’s digital devices led them to Xavier Batten, a 21-year-old Florida resident. Brannon and Ergul chose to target the clinic and obtained the necessary materials, prosecutors alleged, while Batten offered them advice on how to construct the Molotov cocktail and urged them to carry out the attack.

    Ergul and Brannon wanted to “make a statement about abortion” and “scare pregnant women away from obtaining abortions,” as well as “deter doctors, staff and employees at the clinic from providing abortions,” prosecutors wrote in court filings.

    In June 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe V. Wade, the pair planned a second firebomb attack against another Planned Parenthood clinic in an unnamed location, but abandoned their efforts after seeing law enforcement near the facility, prosecutors said.

    As part of his plea deal, Ergul admitted he and Brannon planned two other attacks, but did not carry them out prior to their arrests.

    Ergul acknowledged that he sent someone an aerial photograph of a Southern California Edison electrical substation in Orange and suggested doing a “drive-thru at 3 a.m.” The pair wanted to damage the substation in order to debilitate Orange County’s power grid, prosecutors wrote.

    And Ergul admitted that he and Brannon discussed and researched attacking the parking lot or electrical room at Dodger Stadium on a night where the team was celebrating LGBTQ pride. They looked into constructing a device that could be detonated remotely, exchanged “sabotage manuals,” and discussed carrying out “dry runs” in order to “case the stadium,” according to Ergul’s plea deal.

    The two men were arrested two days before a scheduled “Pride Night” at Dodger Stadium.

    Ergul, in his plea deal, also admitted to sending Brannon a letter in which he wrote of a desire to murder politicians and journalists. He wrote in that letter, “The rifle is in a box in my room waiting to be used in the upcoming race war,” prosecutors said.

    “This defendant’s hatred toward others led him to plotting and carrying out violence,” United States Attorney Martin Estrada wrote in a statement following Ergul’s sentencing. “We will not allow bigoted intolerance to divide us.”

    U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, who sentenced him, said the defendant wasn’t as “culpable” as Brannon, who was the ringleader of the attacks. “Clearly, Mr. Brannon had an adverse influence on Mr. Ergul,” the judge said.

    Ergul, who emigrated from Turkey, struggled to blend into Newport Beach, Carney said.

    “He did not fit well with the teenagers in Newport Beach and was bullied,” he said. He also suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, an anxiety disorder and ADHD, the judge added.

    Carney praised Ergul for attending classes and participating in self-help programs while in custody.

    “I want you to know I am ashamed,” Ergul told Carney. “This country gave me everything. … I wouldn’t have had back in Turkey and I squandered it all.” He added that he regretted doing something that “divided” people.

    “I want to take responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I know what I did was wrong … I was educated, I had intelligence, I thought I was being a productive member of society. But I just pushed it all away with my hate.”

    Ergul apologized “to the government, to my victims … and all the women and doctors and staff at Planned Parenthood,” he said. He also apologized to his family. “I really want to continue my life and make my parents proud of me again,” Ergul said.

    He asked to be sent to a prison where he can continue his education and to participate in a drug rehabilitation program. Carney made a recommendation for him, noting how his drug addiction factored into his behavior in the crimes.

    Carney told the him, “Obviously, you have great potential the way you write and speak … It’s never too late to turn yourself around and redeem yourself.”

    Noting the defendant’s father flew in from Turkey for Thursday’s hearing, Carney said, “Mr. Ergul, in a way you’re a very fortunate man. Despite what you did there are people who love you very much to come to this hearing … It’s a testament to their love for you.”

    Ergul still faces domestic violence charges in Arizona, where he attacked a roommate while under the influence of LSD, Carney said.

    Last month, Brannon was sentenced to nine years in federal prison. Earlier this month, Batten was sentenced to three and a half years behind bars.

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    ​ Orange County Register