The man accused of leading a plot to bomb New York synagogues told an undercover informant less than two months before his arrest that he was “struggling” and needed time to think about the plan.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life right now,” defendant James Cromitie said today in New York in a video played on the third day of the cross-examination of the informant by defense attorney Vincent Briccetti. “I’m struggling and I don’t have to. I’m trying to survive, that’s all. I really don’t have to do nothing crazy as of yet.”
Defense lawyers showed excerpts of videos filmed at a house in Newburgh, New York, on April 7, 2009, where Cromitie, 44, who is accused of leading the operation, told the informant that he needed to find a way to make money.
The video was taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which set up the house for recording and photographing. It wasn’t presented as evidence by prosecutors.
Briccetti and his fellow defense attorneys portray Cromitie and his three co-defendants as poor victims of entrapment by the FBI informant, Shahed Hussain. The four were lured into a terrorist plot with meals from Denny’s, coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and offers of cars and cash, the lawyers say.
The meeting was the first in more than a month between Cromitie and Hussain, who was posing as a member of the Pakistan-based terror organization Jaish-e-Mohammed.
‘Life on the Line’
On the recording, Hussain admonishes Cromitie for avoiding his calls, saying that he put his “life on the line.” By the end of the conversation, Cromitie agrees to look at synagogues with the informant.
“You weren’t going to take no for an answer, were you?” Briccetti asked Hussain.
“He could have walked away, sir,” Hussain said.
The trial of Cromitie, David Williams, 29, Onta Williams, 34, and Laguerre Payen, 28, all of Newburgh, began Aug. 23 before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon. The Williams defendants aren’t related.
McMahon declined to rule today on a defense request for her to order prosecutors to investigate and correct “suspected perjury” by Hussain, who they accuse in court documents of making “blatantly contradictory and often preposterous statements” about his immigration status, his finances and “his very identity.” The judge said that she may hold a hearing on the request in the future.
“I can tell you that I am skeptical of some things he has said, but I am not the trier of facts,” McMahon said.
The men are accused of plotting to bomb a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx section of New York City and fire heat-seeking missiles at military planes at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.
They were arrested in a FBI operation on May 20, 2009, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
The charges include conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. They face as long as life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 09-cr-00558, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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