Manhattan US Attorney Peter Bharara. “Homegrown terrorism is a serious threat, and today’s convictions affirm our commitment to do everything we can to protect against that,” and added, “The defendants in this case agreed to plant bombs and use missiles they thought were very real weapons of terrorism. We are safer today as a result of these convictions.”
From the onset, there were conflicting reports surrounding the “Newburgh Four,” but in the end, the jury found them “Guilty” on almost all the charges.
Stewart International Airport is just a few minutes drive from our neighborhood. In May of 2009, four men from the Newburgh area , James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen were arrested in an undercover sting operation. The charges stemmed from an alleged plot to blow up two New York synagogues and fire missiles upon US military aircraft at Stewart International Airport.
As the trial began, the opening statements on both sides of the court painted a vastly different scenario. Much of the opening arguments of the trial seemed to focus on the FBI informant, Shahed Hussain who was known to the defendants as “Maqsood.”
The FBI had an informant, a wire-wearing FBI informant named Shahed Hussain. He had been working undercover with the four men for months prior to their arrests. Hussain told the men that he was actually a representative from a Pakistan-based terrorist group. He convinced them that he could help them obtain explosives and surface-to-air missiles that would shoot down planes at Stewart Airport. What they actually received from Hussain were inert devices supplied by the FBI through Hussain. The FBI videotaped the men as they were planting the fake bombs outside of two Riverdale synagogues and they were promptly arrested the next day.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam S. Hickey said that Hussain was approached by Cromitie outside a Newburgh mosque in June of 2008. Cromitie expressed both hatred and disdain for both the Jewish people and America. Hickey told the jury that the four men were “prepared to go all the way through with their destructive and murderous plot.”
Cromitie’s attorney, Vincent L. Briccetti, stated that his client is a “really big talker” with a “big mouth” who agreed to go along with the plot only after Hussain offered him $250,000.
The defense claims the sting amounted to entrapment. The lawyers for the defendants cite recordings from April 2008 which they say show Cromitie had serious doubts about going forward with any plans even hedging as Hussain taunted him, “”I told you, I can make $250,000, but you don’t want it brother.”
Defense attorney, Vincent Briccetti, labeled Hussain “a master manipulator” who enticed the men with money and a BMW. Onta Williams’ attorney, Susanne Body, argued that although her client was exposed to Islam in jail, he never became a radical Muslim.
The trial of these four men ended yesterday in a Manhattan courtroom. The jury handed down their verdicts, “Guilty.” The men could spend the rest of their days behind bars.