Defense attorneys say an alleged plot to bomb New York synagogues was hatched and directed by a federal informant.
Lawyers for four men from Newburgh have filed a motion to dismiss the terror indictment against them.
They said the informant badgered the defendants until they got involved in the plot.
They said the informant chose the targets, supplied fake bombs for the synagogues and a fake missile to shoot down planes. The motion said he also offered to pay the defendants, who attorneys alleged weren’t inclined toward any crime until the informant began recruiting them.
“The government well knew that their case had been a government-inspired creation from day one and that the defendants had not been independently seeking weapons or targets,” the motion said.
Federal court spokesman Herb Hadad said the government would file its response next month.
The four men, who were arrested last May, face up to life in prison if convicted. They have been previously identified as James Cromitie, 55, David Williams, 28, Onta Williams, 32, and Laguerre Payen, 27, all of Newburgh in upstate New York, where authorities were conducting raids at their homes, sources said.
Authorities have said they had the plotters under surveillance since June of 2008 and there was “no chance” the alleged scheme could succeed. They credited the work of a long time informant with keeping tabs on the group.
The FBI has said the Muslim suspects were angry and full of hate for America.
According to the criminal complaint, Cromitie said “I hate those f-ing Jewish bastards.” He bragged that it would be a “piece of cake” to bomb a Jewish Center in Riverdale, according to the complaint.
He said his father lives in Afghanistan and he was upset about U.S. military presence there.
“The fact that this type of hatred exists means that we all have to be vigilant all of the time,” city councilman Jeffrey Dinowitz said Thursday.
Cromitie was the first to approach the informant, authorities said. He told the informant he has ties to the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad. Authorities said Cromitie had 27 past arrests and had recently been working at a nation-wide discount retailer, authorities said.
Several of the suspects have previously been arrested on drug charges and may have converted to Islam in prison, authorities said.
The four men allegedly would meet in a safe house in Newburgh, which authorities said they had bugged with audio and video equipment.
The suspects said they wanted to get their hands on stinger missiles to shoot down planes at the nearby Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport, according to a criminal complaint unsealed late Wednesday. The suspects also received what they believed were two stinger missiles which they intended to use to shoot down military planes, the complaint said. They also bought cell phones to allegedly use in the plot.
Officials said they moved in when they did so the alleged plot could not progress any further.
In a separate motion, defense attorneys demanded more information on inducements that the informant may have offered the defendants.
The dismissal motion identified the government’s agent as Shaheed Hussain, a “professional informant” for the FBI. The defense claimed he was directed to visit suburban mosques, find members with anti-American leanings and recruit them to join a fake terror plot supposedly funded by a Pakistan-based group.
He suggested there could be as much as $250,000 available and the government provided him with a BMW, a Hummer and other cars to make him appear well-funded, the defense filings said.
The defense alleged that Hussain tried to incite the defendants by blaming Jews for the world’s evil and telling them that attacks against non-Muslims were endorsed by Islam.
Nevertheless, they said, he failed to motivate the defendants to any action on their own. Months went by between meetings, and the filings quote Cromitie as saying, “I’m not gonna hurt anybody” and “The plane thing … is out of the question.”
Hussain suggested the targets, paid for the defendants’ groceries, bought a gun, provided the fake bombs and missile, assembled the explosive devices and acted as chauffeur, the defense said.
Since the 9/11 attacks, authorities have arrested suspects in a number of alleged plots against area targets, including the Fort Dix New Jersey military base, John F. Kennedy Airport, the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.