Three men convicted of plotting to blow up New York synagogues and to fire heat-seeking missiles at U.S. military planes were sentenced to 25 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan handed down punishments today against James Cromitie, 45, Onta Williams, 35, and David Williams, 30, who were found guilty in October of crimes including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. A fourth defendant, Laguerre Payen, had his sentencing postponed pending a psychiatric evaluation.
McMahon called Cromitie and his co-defendants “thugs for hire,” adding that “I am nonetheless convinced a sentence of 25 years, a quarter of century behind bars, is sufficient to punish you for what happened and what didn’t happen.”
The men were accused of planning to bomb the Riverdale Temple, a Reform synagogue in the Bronx section of New York, and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center, an Orthodox synagogue, in May 2009. They also sought heat-seeking missiles to fire at aircraft at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, the U.S. said.
Prosecutors sought life sentences for the three men, saying they were career criminals and willing participants in a plot organized by a government informant, Shahed Hussain, who was posing as a member of the Pakistani terrorist organization Laiksh-e-Mohammad.
“They have shown little respect for the law throughout their adult lives,” the U.S. said in a sentencing memorandum dated June 8. “This investigation revealed what their rap sheets never could: that these defendants were among the handful of people in the country who would actually agree to join forces with a terrorist to bomb synagogues.”
The defense argued that the men were the victims of entrapment, lured into the plan by a paid government informant who gave them money for rent, food and car fare, and who promised them $250,000 in cash, a BMW, vacations in Puerto Rico and a barbershop.
The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 09-cr-00558, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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