James Cromite (C), one of four suspects, is walked out of the FBI offices after being taken into custody in New York, May 21, 2009. — Reuters
WHITE PLAINS, New York: Four men accused of trying to bomb synagogues and shoot down planes in New York last spring did little more than go along with a fake plot proposed, directed and funded by the federal government, defence lawyers claim in asking the court to dismiss the case.
A federal informant chose the targets, offered payment, provided maps and bought the only real weapon involved, a handgun, the attorneys said in a dismissal motion filed this week in federal court. They alleged the defendants were not 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 defence has suggested from the start that an entrapment claim was likely.
Defendants James Cromitie, 55, Onta Williams, 32, David Williams, 28, and Laguerre Payen, 27, all of Newburgh, are charged with placing what they thought were bombs outside two synagogues in the Bronx last May. They also are accused of planning to use what they thought was a Stinger missile against planes at an Air National Guard base 50 miles north of New York City.
They have pleaded not guilty and face up to life in prison if convicted.
The FBI was in on the plot, and the bombs and missiles involved were dummies, prosecutors said.
The defence lawyers said they based their account of the case on evidence shared by the government, including recordings and agents' affidavits. Those materials have not been made public.
In a separate motion, they 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 defence 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 defence filings said.
The defence 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 defence said.
''The alleged crimes were almost entirely the product of Hussain's labours and the enterprise would have immediately collapsed if Hussain's guiding hand had been removed,'' the defence motion said.