Lawyers for four men convicted of attempting to blow up two New York synagogues are appealing their clients' sentences. Their argument: the men are not intelligent or competent enough to be true terrorists.
“No reasonable terrorist organization would have hired these guys,” argued attorney David Lewis, representing Onta Williams.
Attorneys have accused the FBI of entrapping the four by encouraging them to commit attacks that they could not have thought up alone. Prosecutor Adam Hickey disagrees, and says the group thought up the attacks without an FBI informant’s help.
The judge who sentenced ringleader James Cromitie to 25 years in prison for his role in the plot. The judge slammed the FBI for its role, saying, “Only the government could have made a ‘terrorist’ out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope.” However, she rejected Cromitie’s claim of entrapment, terming his actions “beyond despicable.”
Judge James Newman, who is among those hearing the appeal, expressed skepticism of the entrapment claim as well, the New York Daily News reports. He quoted Cromitie telling the informant that he wanted to “do something to America” and was “going to put a plan together,” and noted, “That doesn’t sound like an absence of predisposition.”
Judge Reena Raggi said terrorist recruits have often been misled by their handlers. “I’m not sure this rises to the level of outrageous government misconduct,” she said.
Cromitie, a small-time drug dealer, met the informant at a New York mosque in 2008. In conversations between the two, the informant urges Cromitie to “do something for Islam” and Cromitie expressed hatred of Jews.
He recruited three others into a plan to bomb two synagogues and shoot down military aircraft. FBI agents arrested the four after they planted fake bombs they thought were real outside the synagogues.