Justin Murphy — Democrat and Chronicle Jan 1, 2016
Patsy or Informant?
In November and December, Emanuel Lutchman spoke several times with an FBI informant about his willingness to plan and carry out an attack in Rochester, according to the criminal complaint that charges him with offering “material support” to terrorists.
According to Lutchman’s grandmother, however, his role could just have easily been reversed. She said the FBI contacted him in the fall, asking him to be a confidential informant.
At one point while out on parole, Lutchman had posted some “complaints about the system” on Facebook, said his grandmother, Beverley Carridice-Henry. That apparently caught the FBI’s attention; she said they first interviewed him several months ago.
“When he got out they interviewed him and asked him to be an informant,” she said. “He said he wouldn’t be an informant because he didn’t know anyone who would do something like that, so how could he inform?”
She did not know the exact nature of what Lutchman posted on Facebook. An FBI representative declined Friday to comment on that claim or any other aspect of Lutchman’s case.
A Rochester Police Department representative said there were no updates to report Friday and offered no comment on Carridice-Henry’s claim.
Lutchman, 25, was arrested Wednesday and accused of an Islamic State-inspired plot to abduct or kill patrons at a Rochester bar on New Year’s Eve. According to an affidavit, Lutchman purchased a machete and other supplies at a Rochester Walmart and suggested to a confidential informant that “they kidnap a couple of people and kill them,” according to court papers.
Carridice-Henry, who lives in Florida, said she raised Lutchman after his mother died when he was an infant. She cared for him in New York City and Florida before he moved to Rochester at age 13 to be closer to his mother’s side of the family.
In a telephone interview Friday, she fought back tears to describe a different side to the man who could face decades in prison.
“He was the sweetest, most affectionate, loving child,” she said. “To him, I was his world. He called me his mom. He was a happy child; everybody loved him.”
Even before he left for Rochester at age 13, Lutchman had been diagnosed with mental illness and was receiving medication and twice-a-week therapy, Carridice-Henry said. He struggled to focus in school and never graduated from high school.
When he was 16, Lutchman was arrested after robbing a Rochester man of a cellphone, baseball hat, bus pass, library cards and cigarettes. He pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
It was in prison that Lutchman converted to Islam. His grandmother said he did that because another inmate had attempted to rape him and he needed protection.
He received a full complement of medications for his mental health issues in prison but still attempted suicide on multiple occasions, Carridice-Henry said. He depended on his grandmother to put money in his account so they could talk on the phone two or three times a week.
“They sent him away to a prison with all adults and hard criminals,” she said, crying. “That’s where they put a 16-year-old. … All he wanted was to come home.”
After Lutchman left prison, he visited his grandmother in Florida for a week. She was stunned to see the number of medications he was taking — and troubled when she realized he sometimes didn’t take them.
When he was off his medications, she said, “He got very agitated and he shut down. … He’d take (them), then he wouldn’t take them because he didn’t think he needed them. Back and forth, back and forth. … I tried talking to him, but he talks when he wants to. When he doesn’t, he says, ‘I’ll call you back.'”
Lutchman’s son was born in late 2013, a week after he left prison. Carridice-Henry said he was unable to cope with the stress of maintaining a wife and child with no job. With no high school diploma and a felony conviction, he had few opportunities.
“He was frustrated,” she said. “He can’t get no job; he can’t buy Pampers for his son. He went around and begged from his friends because his wife wanted money to take care of the baby and he wasn’t working. He got very emotional and sick about that, when he couldn’t (care) for his wife and son. And when he got that way — oh, God help him.”
Carridice-Henry said Lutchman was hospitalized for suicide attempts at least three times in the last several months, including once when he stabbed himself in his other grandmother’s kitchen. It was during that period, she said, the FBI tried to recruit him as an informant.
The morning he was arrested, Lutchman called his grandmother and told her he was planning to pray with a friend from the mosque, then see another friend who did T-shirt printing to try to learn the trade himself.
She and her family do not believe Lutchman actually intended to carry out an attack; they believe he was coerced by FBI agents.
“I’m not going to say he’s a saint, but the thing about him is, he’d meet somebody and they were automatically his friend,” she said. “And I told him, ‘Not everyone you meet is your friend.’ But to him they were.
“Whatever went down, the family is sorry. We do not support radical Islam. We don’t. We’re sorry for what happened. But they sent this guy to befriend him and set him up in a sting. How is that right? For the federal government to set up youths that they know are vulnerable? … He didn’t have money to buy Pampers for his son. How would he find money to go buy these (weapons)?”
According to the FBI affidavit, a confidential informant paid for the supplies at Walmart because Lutchman had no money.
Carridice-Henry said she has not spoken with her grandson since his arrest. She is confident, though, that he will call her when he can.
“He always calls me because I’m the one who will accept his calls (from prison); because no one else will pay to talk to him on the phone,” she said. “And I have to sacrifice to make sure there’s money for that. But he needs to hear a human voice, someone who loves him. I’ll never turn my back on my grandson.”