A man from Queens who pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up synagogues in Manhattan has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars, in the Manhattan District Attorney's first conviction of a terror defendant.
Ahmed Ferhani, in court today in an orange jumpsuit, pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including conspiracy as a crime of terrorism and criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism. A grand jury declined to indict Ferhani on a top level terror charge.
"The defendant unequivocally admitted his guilt to intimidate the Jewish population of New York City," said Assistant District Attorney Gary Galperin as Ferhani's attorney gently rubbed his client's back in comfort.
Judge Michael Obus imposed a sentence of 10 years, less than the 14 years the district attorney's office requested or the 25 he would have faced if convicted of all charges after a trial.
After serving his sentence, Ferhani, who was born in Algeria, is likely to be deported.
"Today's sentencing marks an important first for local law enforcement officials in New York State," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. "This defendant was convicted and sentenced under anti terrorism laws that enabled local police and prosecutors to protect our communities from terrorist threats."
Ferhani was caught in an undercover sting talking about his hatred of Jews based on what he believed to be their mistreatment of Muslims in the world.
"This was a case that was clearly a case of entrapment," said defense attorney Lamis Deek, who added that the plot "was initiated and manufactured by the NYPD."
Ferhani made the following statement at the time of his guilty plea:
"In October of 2010, I met a fellow Muslim named 'Ilter,' who I now know to be an undercover detective. Between the date that I first met 'Ilter' and until my arrest on May 11, 2011, I repeatedly discussed with him my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and perceived to be their mistreatment of Muslims throughout the world.
"I agreed with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to develop a plan to attack and damage a synagogue in New York County or elsewhere in New York City using explosives. By targeting a synagogue, which I knew to be a Jewish house of worship, in this manner, I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims. In the weeks that followed our initial conversations, we repeatedly discussed how the plan could best be executed and considered expanding the scope of the plan.
"In furtherance of the plan, between April, 2011, and May, 2011, I further agreed with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to purchase and possess three loaded firearms and a grenade. On May 11, 2011, I travelled from Queens into Manhattan with 'Ilter' and Mohamed Mamdouh to purchase these weapons from a man who was previously introduced to me as a weapons dealer, but whom I now know to be another undercover detective. In the minutes before my arrest, I was inside a car that was parked near the corner of West 58th Street and Twelfth Avenue in New York County.
"While there, I took possession of a grenade, which I believed at the time to be a live explosive substance, a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol, two loaded Beretta/Browning semi-automatic pistols, and corresponding ammunition for all three pistols. I intended to use the grenade and Smith & Wesson pistol, and to sell the two Beretta/Browning pistols, all in furtherance of the plan to attack a synagogue for the purpose of intimidating and coercing the Jewish population of New York City."
A co-defendant, Mohamed Mamdouh, is expected in court March 29.
Federal authorities declined to investigate Ferhani's case, which became the Manhattan District Attorney's first conviction under a state terrorism statute passed after the Sept. 11 attacks.