A man convicted in 2010 for plotting attacks on New York City synagogues and a Jewish community center, along with plans to shoot down military planes, has been ordered to be released from prison.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon ruled that the defendant was unduly influenced in a sting operation by the FBI.
Judge criticizes FBI tactics leading to release of three members
This case involves the “Newburgh Four,” a group entrapped in a 2009 scheme driven by overzealous FBI agents and an unsavory confidential informant, according to the judge.
The three other members of the Newburgh Four—Onta Williams, David Williams, and Laguerra Payen—had previously been ordered to be released last July.
Judge orders release of ‘Newburgh Four’ ringleader Cromitie
The fourth member, James Cromitie, recognized as the ringleader by the government, was the latest to be ordered released by Judge McMahon on Friday.
The judge described the case as “notorious” and the men as “hapless” petty criminals, easily manipulated in a government-led sting operation.
Cromitie’s lawyer stated in the New York Times, “at least some kind of vindication for what we believe was a tragic miscarriage of justice.”
Judge’s reasoning and sentence reduction
The four men were initially convicted of terrorism charges in 2010, each receiving a 25-year sentence.
In the recent ruling, Judge McMahon requested Cromitie’s sentence be reduced to time served plus 90 days without reversing the conviction.
Judge cites FBI as main conspirator in romitie Case
She described Cromitie as a small-time “grifter,” financially struggling when he was roped into the FBI’s plot. He was provided fake bombs to plant and promised $250,000 for completing the so-called “jihadist mission.”
The judge noted, “The three men were recruited so that Cromitie could conspire with someone,” adding, “The real lead conspirator was the United States. …. The FBI invented the conspiracy, identified the targets, and manufactured the ordnance.”
Involvement of FBI informant in sting operation
Cromitie’s recruitment for the plot was led by Shahed Hussain, a longtime FBI informant, whom Judge McMahon labeled as a “villain.”
Hussain’s role involved infiltrating mosques to identify potential extremists.
He enticed Cromitie with promises of “heavenly and earthly rewards, including as much as $250,000,” if he agreed to plan, participate in, and recruit others for the jihadist mission, as per the judge’s findings.