Jose Pimentel, an alleged al-Qaeda sympathizer who pleaded guilty following a police sting operation to trying to build pipe bombs to detonate in New York City, was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Pimentel, 29, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, was sentenced today to a term he had agreed to under a deal with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. He is to serve 16 years in prison with five years of post-release supervision for a single count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism, according to Vance’s office.
U.S. investigators didn’t participate in the year-long sting that led to Pimentel’s November 2011 arrest because of the risk of entrapment, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. The New York City Police Department includes Pimentel’s arrest as one of as many as 16 foiled terrorism plots in New York since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“As Pimentel’s guilty plea confirms, the threat of terrorism is increasingly coming from radicalized local actors living in our communities,” Vance said in a statement. “Local law enforcement is not only uniquely situated to identify threats of terrorism -- we are ready and able to stop acts of terrorism before they occur.”
Pimentel was accused of plotting terrorist acts to avenge the death of an al-Qaeda cleric. His lawyers said he was induced to commit the crime as part of an undercover investigation.
The native of the Dominican Republic was unemployed and living in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood at the time of his arrest in 2011. Confidential informants gave him food, shelter, marijuana and access to a computer, his lawyers said.
Prosecutors accused Pimentel of being motivated to commit attacks in part by the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born al-Qaeda cleric who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.
Pimentel had the makings of at least three pipe bombs when he was arrested, including pipes with holes drilled in them, explosive powder, electronic circuits that could be used as ignition devices, clocks and nails to be used as shrapnel, according to prosecutors.
He talked in recorded telephone conversations about blowing up police stations and making a bomb for $40 or less that could be used to take down a building, the government said.
State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber read a statement from Pimentel in court in February, in which he admitted downloading instructions for making bombs and said he wanted to “undermine support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to effectuate the withdrawal of the United States Forces from Arab countries in the Middle East.”
Defense lawyers said evidence in the case would have shown that numerous people had previously been unsuccessful in attempting to coerce Pimentel into committing a crime.
The case is People v. Pimentel, 084689/2011, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).