New York: Three drug offenders caught in an elaborate FBI sting involving a phony plot to blow up New York City synagogues and shoot down military planes were sentenced on Wednesday to 25 years in prison by a judge who singled out one as a hateful buffoon who never could have pulled off a terrorist attack on his own.
The government had sought life in prison for James Cromitie, David Williams, and Onta Williams for convictions last year on conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and other charges.
US District Judge Colleen McMahon instead imposed the lesser sentences after repeatedly pointing out that the plot was scripted by the FBI from the start and never put anyone in real danger. Rather than foil an actual plot, the government “created acts of terrorism’’ out of Cromitie’s “fantasies of bravado and bigotry and then made those fantasies come true,’’ the judge said.
Later, she added, “Only the government could make a terrorist out of Mr Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope.’’
But the judge also condemned the defendants for spewing hatred toward Jews and for being “willing to kill, maim and destroy for money”.
Defence lawyers had sought even less time for their clients, arguing they were entrapped by a paid FBI informant posing as an Islamic extremist.
They also accused prosecutors of purposely introducing a Stinger missile into the plot because the charge that went with it carried a minimum 25 years in prison, saying they would appeal the sentence on that basis.
The men’s trial in federal court in Manhattan had featured two weeks of testimony by undercover informant Shahed Hussain, a Pakistani immigrant the FBI assigned in 2008 to infiltrate a mosque in Newburgh, about 70 miles north of New York.
After meeting Cromitie at the mosque, Hussain told him he was a representative of a Pakistani terrorist organisation that was eager to finance a holy war on US soil.