Were the Newburgh 4 Really Out to Blow Up Synagogues? A Defendant Finally Speaks Out.

Was David Williams IV a terrorist? Or was he just out to make an easy score by scamming the government's informant?

Were the Newburgh 4 Really Out to Blow Up Synagogues? A Defendant Finally Speaks Out.
Photographs by J.B. Nicholas, Christopher Sadowski Splash News/Newscom
From left: James Cromitie, David Williams, Laguerre Payen, and Onta Williams.

On March 24, David Williams IV and three other Newburgh, New York, men face possible life prison sentences for plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down military airplanes at Stewart Airport.

The Newburgh 4—ringleader James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen—were found guilty in a six-week trial based largely on the work of an FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, who posed as a wealthy Pakistani businessman with ties to an overseas terror group as part of an elaborate government sting operation.

The trial showed that Cromitie had made anti-Semitic and anti-American statements, that he concocted attack plans with Hussain, that the four defendants met to view an anti-aircraft missile, and that they planted what they had been told were bombs at two Riverdale synagogues on May 20, 2009.

The evidence, which included secretly taped conversations, painted a picture of four men who wanted to strike a blow for radical Islam. After the verdict, one juror told reporters, "We considered what they did a serious crime."

Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to convince the jury that the government had actually entrapped the four, but none of the defendants testified on their own or gave interviews.

Until now. David Williams tells the Voice what he hasn't said publicly before: that he went along with the bomb plot because he was trying to cheat Hussain, the government's informant, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Even as they were being secretly recorded and trailed by the government, Williams says he and Cromitie were working on their own plot to take Hussain's cash.

In other words, they wanted to scam a guy who, it turned out, was scamming them.

"We all said lots of things only to either impress [Hussain] or make him think he found a band of real killers. We never meant one word of what we said," Williams wrote in a recent letter to a friend.

"That's what the whole thing was about," Williams tells the Voice from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he is being held pending sentencing. He and Cromitie were plotting their own swindle, and both were clear nothing violent would happen. "Cromitie promised me nothing was going to happen."

But plenty has happened to Williams and his fellow defendants. After turning down plea deals for significantly shorter sentences, they rolled the dice by going to trial and keeping their own mouths shut, hoping their defense attorneys could convince a jury that Hussain was an unreliable informant who had manufactured and relentlessly pushed a terror plot by plying them with cash and gifts—the FBI had even pulled strings to keep Williams out of a larceny case that would have had him behind bars when the plot was scheduled to go down. (Both federal prosecutors and defense lawyers declined to comment for this story.)

Would the jury have been more sympathetic if the defendants had instead portrayed themselves as greedy criminals looking for an easy score? It's too late now to find out: Williams and the others are appealing their convictions, but for the moment they remain officially labeled home-grown terrorists who wanted to blow up Jewish people in the Bronx. And next month they could very well be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives.

Following their arrests, David Williams IV and his co-defendants were described in the press as being not very bright convicted felons and drug addicts. They sounded barely literate—and determined to bring down the United States.

On December 31, a handwritten letter in impeccable script arrived at the offices of the Voice. It was from Williams, and it asked for a reporter's help to get his story out: "we planned to never hurt not one soul," he wrote. (The Voice also obtained letters Williams wrote to journalist Lyric Cabral and his aunt, Alicia McWilliams.) To get a more complete picture of his background, interviews were also conducted with his mother and other family members.

Williams spent the first seven years of his life in a fairly middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn, his mother says. He had an uncle, now deceased, who was involved in the narcotics business in the tough Marcy Projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Williams's father was jailed on drug charges, and so his mother, Elizabeth McWilliams, decided to move the family to Newburgh, a working-class upstate town that is stricken with poverty, gangs, and drugs.

"We wanted to get away from the 'fast life,' " she says. "There was a lot of drugs and things around that I didn't want my children to grow up in."

Once upstate, she worked in a variety of jobs, first at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, as a clerk for the football coach, and as a cafeteria worker. She later worked as a public-school janitor and then in a hospital as a patient-care technician in Westchester County.

She had two other children: Lord McWilliams, who is now 22 and ailing from liver disease, and Hassan McWilliams who is 29 and currently in prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Williams says that when he was in high school, he wanted to be a detective—of all things—and then a basketball player, but he turned finally to drug dealing in his late teens. "All failed, and I just went to the streets as a future," he writes. "[It was] the worst mistake of my life and by the time it was too late, I was left with two felonies, drugs, and weapons' possession."

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22 comments
miguel3
miguel3

Fuck them,Hang them all !

Without Pie
Without Pie

I Got A $399 Xbox 360-250Gb (With Kinect) For $42.12! And My Brother In-Law Snagged A $629 Ipad 3G With Wi-Fi Connection For $71.04. Both Are Being Delivered To Our Homes Tomorrow. I Would Be Such An Idiot To Ever Pay High Retail Prices Again. I Recently Sold A 47-Inch Lg Infinia Slim Tv To A Work Buddy For $1200, I Paid $197.31 For It. There Are Two Sites, Both Are Good, BidsGo.Cöm And Snagbids.Cöm

Crickwall2002
Crickwall2002

Thanks! for your article and all the work that went into it. But I read William N. Grigg's piece (ProLibertatae) in October, where he makes it very plausible that this whole thing was a set up, the jury's verdict notwithstanding.

upstatetimmy
upstatetimmy

Hussain was also an informant a few years ago in a similar entrapment-style case in Albany--the two guys he "stung" were just average Muslim citizens, who are now doing 15 years hard time.

According to Sch'dy Gazette columnist Carl Strock, Hussain was in hot water for overstepping his bounds as translator for Arabic-speaking people taking DMV license tests--and actuaslly doing the tests for them--and acted as CI in order to make these felony cases go away.

Yikes.

Upword
Upword

They're not terrorists. They just play them on TV. Fooling fools is worth big bucks for politicians and police.

Hamel34
Hamel34

"we planned to never hurt not one soul," "

Completely at odds with his other statement that he intended to scam the undercover out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I guess they just charged him with the wrong crime.

Joe
Joe

Did any of them even once call 911 or an anonymous tip line when they thought they had a car full of bombs being delivered to the target?

alicia
alicia

People don't want to look at what the Government did. this is what they want people to be so blinded by fear will they are criminal and sociopath as will - it take a dame sociopath to manufactured a crime= conspiracy plot's this government dose not have any Intlegrity so they are saving us from what people need to wake the hell up this is our own America dirty War and it will destroy us COINTELPRO All this have been done for thier own self-interest & Unconstitutional political bigoted- HPOCRISY -THSI IS THE AMERICAN DREAM this dame government is Dysfunctonal with it viciouns cycle with WAR Truning on your own Amercan people and use them for war so your short- sighted thinking people keep thinking they saving you until it time for them use your family what a fuck up world we live IN

lyric r. cabral
lyric r. cabral

Since the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, no American citizen has been hurt or injured, on US soil, as the result of "Islamic terrorism" (Nidal Hassan, the Ft. Hood shooter does not fit traditional definitions of terrorism). Yet, since 9/11, over 120 Americans have been arrested under suspicions of purported terrorism, for crimes where no one was injured. Of these 120 individuals arrested, 49 people were "caught" through the use of a criminal FBI informant. Yet actual terrorism cases, such as those of Umar Farouk Abdul-Mutallab (underwear bomber) and Faizal Shazhad (Times Square bomber), were not investigated nor thwarted by the FBI. The only reason we are now safer is because of the terrorists' human error. The Newburgh Four case illustrates the inefficacy and fiscal waste of using our tax dollars to fund FBI informants, as opposed to investigating genuine national security threats. David Williams IV's story is critical in analyzing the flaws in our national counter terrorism strategies.

"All thinking people oppose terrorism, both international and domestic. But one should not be used to cover the other."- poet Amiri Baraka, from "Somebody Blew up America."

Erin
Erin

i know onta williams. he is not a terrorist nor a sociopath. these men are convicts/drug dealers yes but they are not killers. without this informant and the government planning the whole thing these guys would never have even thought to do anything so heinous. just because you've been in jail before doesn't make you a terrorist. these guys were not capable of doing this on their own so what is the big deal? they have men who were no threat to th US in jail and tons who are a threat still on the streets. maybe if the FBI worked as hard as they did to get the Newburgh 4 to get REAL terrorists the world would be safer. as far as im concerned this case was a waste of time and money. they should be home with their families not in jail.

AVIRONE1
AVIRONE1

Village voice has fired all their legitimate reporters to save money and instead print this crap; UNSUBSCRIBE ME PLEASE AND FROM YOUR NEW GRUPON IMITATION WHICH I DIDN'T ASK FOR AS WELL!

Evil
Evil

These criminals do not deserve to sit in jail for life, its a huge tax burden and jails are not effective. Fry these fuckers!

stonejacks
stonejacks

Black men account for 38.2% of the prison population but are just 12.4% of the gen'l pop. Poor, undereducated, criminal records, family issues, drugs ...He converted to islam we can only assume for the same reasons anyone else converts or commits. He/They could have taken the plea. - -. They were recruited. The crime was set up for them."he did nothing to further the plot," $250K motive. There was a crime and because of their very poor judgement, they are involved. They are not, however, criminals.

suedit
suedit

Would one rather back away and wait until after the deal is done? Could you bring back the dead once it occurs? If people would report these threats rather than go along for whatever reason, they would not have to face jail time. Violence is running rampant in the world and our country has suffered for it. Whatever their intent, they are guilty as is anyone who is aware of a crime and for profit ignores what could have been a deadly outcome. For our country to remain safe, it is time to keep ears open and to stop making excuses for criminals. There are many poor who manage to lead honest lives and often succeed because of it.

ghostoflectricity
ghostoflectricity

This guy is a thug and a sociopath. Now he says that he "only" was trying to cheat a govt. informant out of $250,000. But why should anyone believe anything Williams or his fellow thug/sociopaths say? OF COURSE he tries to minimize it now. But, unlike the other commentators on this thread, I don't think threats against Jews are a "joke" to be laughed off. This guy would say/do anything now that his EVIL ass is in a sling to minimize and rationalize what he did. Maybe the FBI ain't perfect, certainly not, but this guy has the credibility of the snake who famously tricked the woman into letting him ride across the river on her back. Anyone who believes a word of this self-serving, violent-minded criminal, who now tries to tell us that murderous threats against the Jews were just part of a "trick," deserves to be snake-bit. I hope he rots in prison for a long time, and then rots in hell.

G
G

$ 250,000 and a BMW would tempt many people to play along . Perhaps , when details of these kind of patsy manufacturing and manipulations become well known , it will be more difficult for the Feds to use that tactic .

Recall the Feds and the DA encouraged , financed and even helped build the '93 WTC bomb with their guys Emad Salem , Ali Muhammad and Melvin Latimore - the FEDS are really un-indicted participants in mass murder of American Citizens . Details of Ali Muhammad's involvement in the '93 WTC case and also the African embassies in bombing '98 , was shelved for 40 years by Janet Reno and he was later released by Ashcroft . Salem was paid over a million dollars and Latimore may be drifting around with a government (taxpayers) paycheck....

alicia
alicia

If people remember the Civil Rights Year in 1954-1965 come out on March, 24, and stand we me outside the court house @ 500 Pearl st It time for us to stop talking about the issues and stand as the people of America, I will stand up for the Injustice in this case, the Government is not Above the we give them the power and they are losing their moral this is essential a lessons for us all on leadership and social justice. for us all as the people of America we do not have no more civil right movement only government movement I will keep making a impact and keep my eyes on the prize

Alicia McWilliams
Alicia McWilliams

This family was use a case that should have never happen right here on America Soil with hollywood producers to manfacture a crime that come right out of the movie in 1997 wag the dog with Dustin Hoffman and Rorbert De Niro right now our polical system is broken and disfunctional selling family off for polical gain and the violation of human right so one have to ask in this case dose the end justify the mean -when our government make Informant above the law and when our own government become above the law insitigating plots which violates our consitutional right we as the people need to take a look at what going on or fear will kill you

Lucifer Prometheus
Lucifer Prometheus

Wait- who does scamming money from someone who is presumably tied to Al Queda harm? Al Queda maybe. But What the fuck are you talking about exactly? The real criminals here are the officials who sanctioned this wasteful and malicious entrapment of four random guys.

Joe
Joe

Dozens of Americans have been injured or hurt by Islamic terrorism on US soil. Nidal Hassan is exactly the definition of terrorism, so does the LA airport shooter by a radical Muslim, the Seattle Jewish center shooting, also a radical Muslim, the numerous cases of Sudden Jihad Syndrome when a Muslim decides to use his vehicle as a weapon and drove into a crowd...

RICHARDMANN27
RICHARDMANN27

You are insane what is a criminal in your definition,It appears these men lived a life of crime and are typical of the predators that terrorize ordinary Black folk trying to live and raise their children.No it is probably not true that they were jihadists; just low-life criminals. They deserve every year that they are sentenced to which could include life. They did in fact plant what they thought were bombs..They need never see the light of the Black community again where they would continue to rob,and terrorize ordinary hardworking BlACK FOLK,

 
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