A federal judge sentenced a fourth man to 25 years in prison Wednesday for plotting to blow up New York National Guard aircraft and bomb synagogues.
Laguerre Payen joins co-conspirators James Cromitie, Onta Williams and David Williams in receiving 25 years in the plot, which was monitored by the FBI with the use of an informant.
"Laguerre Payen was a willing participant in a plot to use bombs and missiles to target New York synagogues and U.S. military planes," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. "Although these weapons were fake, the defendant believed they were real, and today's sentence underscores the gravity of these crimes."
In court, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon criticized the government's use of the informant, which she also did in sentencing the other defendants. But that criticism was not enough for her to overturn the convictions, because she said, the evidence showed the defendants were "predisposed to commit violent terrorist acts against Jews and American government facilities" before the informant entered the picture.
Prosecutors say Cromitie approached the informant first, in 2008, saying his parents had lived in Afghanistan and he was upset about the war there. He expressed interest in going to Afghanistan saying he would go to paradise if he died as a martyr. He also expressed an interest in doing "something to America," the government statement said.
Payen was not considered a leader in the plot, but was present when the group picked up what it thought were live Stinger missiles and improvised explosive devices for the attacks. Those weapons were rendered inert by the FBI and did not pose an actual threat.
Payen pleaded his innocence to McMahon Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported, but the judge was not persuaded.
"You were prepared to do terrible things and you tried to do terrible things and you tried to do it for a terrible reason," she said. "Maybe that doesn't make you a terrorist as I understand what a terrorist is, but it makes you a criminal…It makes you guilty of a hideous crime."