U.S. Judge Colleen McMahon upheld on Tuesday the October verdicts of four men found guilty of plotting to bomb a New York synagogue and to shoot military planes with surface-to-air missiles.
Defense lawyers argue that the FBI entrapped the men, James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, using an FBI informant who at one point offered them $250,000 to commit the acts.
Though she denied the motion, McMahon gave some credence to the entrapment argument in her ruling.
Cromitie, McMahon wrote, "did absolutely nothing to violate the law until after the Government (through informant [Shahed] Hussain) had made repeated offers of material (as opposed to spiritual) rewards to a desperately poor man- and that even those offers took considerable time to bear fruit."
But "to prevail at trial" the government needed only to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cromitie was "predisposed to commit violent terrorist acts against Jews and American government facilities" before the informant entered the picture.
"This it did," wrote McMahon, "by letting the jurors hear Cromitie's bragadosio. His own mouth condemneth him." Jurors heard "hours of tapes replete with Cromitie's genuinely frightening rants about Jews," she wrote. And when Cromitie first approached the informant in June 2008, he expressed that he wanted to go to Afghanistan to "die like a shahid, a martyr" and said "I want to do something in America."
Where evidence didn't exist about the defendants before the informant's initial contact, the government can still establish the defendants were predisposed to the crimes if it can show they "readily" or "promptly" agreed to engage in the plot once approached.
The government was able to give enough evidence to convince the jury that the Williams' and Payen did just this, McMahon ruled, citing the short periods of time between when they were approached and when evidence showed they were fully committed to the plot.
"Once David Williams was in, he immediately and enthusiastically entered into planning the criminal venture," McMahon wrote. Similarly, "Onta Williams was extremely enthusiastic about having the opportunity to launch a stinger missile" and "Payen appeared eager to be the stinger shooter; he and Cromitie squabbled over the stinger like children fighting over a new toy."
Further, McMahon cited Onta Williams' recorded discussion with Hussain in which he said, "I'm doing it for the sake of Allah. I mean, the money, the money helps, but I'm doing it for the sake of Allah."
Read McMahon's full order here. The men are scheduled to be sentenced on June 7th.