Thursday, May 30, 2024

Judge Blasts FBI for Manufactured Terrorism Plot, Sets Defendants Free

'The real lead conspirator was the United States...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) Three men convicted in a post-9/11 terrorism sting have been ordered freed from prison by a judge who deemed their lengthy sentences “unduly harsh and unjust” and decried the FBI’s role in radicalizing them in a plot to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down National Guard planes.

Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen—three of the men known as the “Newburgh Four”—were “hapless, easily manipulated and penurious petty criminals” caught up more than a decade ago in a scheme driven by overzealous FBI agents and a dodgy informant, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon said in her ruling Thursday.

Though a jury had already rejected the men’s argument that they were entrapped by the FBI more than 10 years ago, McMahon’s opinion excoriated the bureau for doing just that.

“The real lead conspirator was the United States,” McMahon wrote in granting the men’s request for compassionate release, effective in three months.

According to McMahon, the FBI portrayed the defendants as “sophisticated international terrorists committed to jihad against the United States.”

But in reality, the defendants were manipulated into manufactured terrorism plots by a “most savory” FBI informant named Shaheed Hussain, the judge said.

McMahon outlined how Hussain manipulated the lead defendant, James Cromite, by pretending to be a wealthy Pakistani businessman, promising Cromite as much as $250,000 if he would plan, participate in and find others to join a jihadist “mission.”

In 2008, Cromite then recruited Onta and David Williams, as well as Payen, to serve as “lookouts” while he planted “bombs” manufactured by the FBI at a synagogue and community center in Riverdale.

“Nothing about the crimes of conviction was of defendants’ own doing,” the judge said.

“The FBI invented the conspiracy; identified the targets, manufactured the ordnance, federalized what would have otherwise been a state crime (the Bronx ‘bomb’ plot) by driving three of the four men into Connecticut to view the ‘bombs’ and ‘stinger missile launchers’ that would be used in the operation; and picked the day for the ‘mission’ (which was filmed in real time so it could be shown on television news the night were arrested).”

On May 20, 2008, FBI informant Hussain drove the four men to Riverdale—the judge said they had no way to drive themselves—where they planted a fake bomb by the community center before being promptly arrested.

The two Williams men and Payen are set to be released in three months due to Judge McMahon’s ruling.

The lead defendant, Cromitie, wasn’t part of the compassionate release request and is expected to complete his prison sentence in 2030. Cromitie’s attorney, Kerry Lawrence, said he plans to speak with him about pursuing similar action on his behalf.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the judge’s decision. A message seeking comment was sent to the FBI.

Meanwhile, FBI informant Hussain is in prison for actions unrelated to the abovementioned case.

Hussain’s predicament stems from 2018, when a stretch limo crashed in rural Schoharie, New York, killing 20 people. Hussain owned the limo company, operated by his son Nauman Hussain.

After it emerged that the limo had failed a safety inspection a month before the crash and that the slain driver didn’t have a commercial license, Nauman Hussain was charged with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter. His lawyer blamed a repair shop for the vehicle’s problems and said his client was being treated like a scapegoat.

Nauman Hussain was convicted this May and is serving five to 15 years in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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