Synagogue Bomb Plot Entrapment Claim Rejected by Court

Four men found guilty of plotting to bomb New York City synagogues and fire missiles at military planes weren’t entrapped by investigators, a federal appeals court found.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New York upheld the convictions of James Cromitie and co-conspirators Laguerre Payen, David Williams and Onta Williams, rejecting their claims that they wouldn’t have engaged in the scheme without the help of a government informant.

On the day he met the informant, Cromitie said he wanted to “do something to America” and “die like a shahid, a martyr,” according to the opinion.

“The jury was entitled to think that wanting to die like a martyr, coupled with wanting to do something to America, meant a willingness to be a suicide bomber, even though Cromitie never planned to sacrifice his own life,” the appeals court said in its decision.

The men were convicted in October 2010 of crimes including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the U.S. and conspiracy to kill U.S. employees. All four men were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The case against the four men, all of whom lived in Newburgh, New York, began in 2008 when the FBI began sending an informant, Shahed Hussain, to mosques to pose as a wealthy Pakistani businessman so he could interact with suspects in other terrorism investigations.

Judge’s Dissent

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs disagreed in part with the two other members of the appeals court panel. Jacobs said in a dissenting opinion that Cromitie’s comments about wanting to die like a martyr didn’t mean he had already “formed design” to commit a crime when he met Hussain. Cromitie was “entrapped as a matter of law,” Jacobs said.

“The design here was entirely formed by the government, and fed to Cromitie. He liked it, but he didn’t form it,” Jacobs wrote.

In his “unmolested state of grievance,” Cromitie would have “continued to stew in his rage and ignorance indefinitely, and had no formed design about what to do,” Jacobs said.

Cromitie, a former Wal-Mart employee, was previously unknown to the FBI and wasn’t involved in other terrorist activity, his lawyers have said.

The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 11-2763, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

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