A federal jury in Manhattan found four defendants guilty today of plotting to blow up a synagogue and a Jewish community center and to use a shoulder fired missile to take down a military plane at a suburban New York airport.
The case centered on the evidence of an informant whose tactics had been criticized by defense lawyers as approaching entrapment and for allegedly leading the defendants down the path to jihad.
The jury deliberated for eight days before reaching today's verdict, and according to sources there was a sense of relief at the Department of Justice when the case was decided.
The jury heard taped conversations in which ring leader James Cromitie, 44, and three other men spoke extensively about their plans as the informant, Shahed Hussain -- posing as a representative of a Pakistan-based terrorist group -- recorded the discussions. Hussain had made hundreds of hours of recordings.
Cromitie's attorney argued during the trial that Hussain entrapped the defendants and that Hussain's testimony on the stand was lies.
"The bottom line is when it comes to Hussain's testimony, it's worthless. It's garbage," lawyer Vincent Briccetti told the jury. "He lied to you."
The attacks were never carried out, but prosecutors argued that was not a mitigating factor.
"The defendants thought this was real -- real bombs, real missiles," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin told the jury. He said that Cromitie was intent on committing a terrorist act and that the informant had not put that idea in his head
Cromitie and the other defendants -- David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- were arrested on May 20, 2009. They were charged with conspiring to blow up the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center in the New York City borough of the Bronx. They are also accused of planning to fire surface-to-air-missiles at a New York military facility.
On the tapes, Cromitie can be heard telling Hussain, "I am a soldier in America, but not for America."
Convicted in Synagogue Bombing Threat Could Bring Life Sentences
One juror in the case was dismissed after she told Judge Colleen McMahon that she was uncertain if she could ignore extraneous information she saw in her transcript binder during the third day of deliberations Oct. 8.
Sentencing was set for March 24, when the defendants could face up to life in prison.