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?

Williams recalls walking into a relative's apartment, and seeing money-counting machines surrounded by huge amounts of cash. "Selling drugs, I came across $10,000 at one time, spent half on clothes, girls, partying, and weed," he writes.

While the tabloids claimed he converted to Islam in prison, Williams says instead that an uncle talked to him about the religion when he was 14, and he slowly became more involved with it, even as he was falling into the world of drug dealing.

Williams has the words "Allah," and "Akbar" tattooed on his hands. He got the first when his daughter was born in 2002, and the second, in 2005. "I am a proud Muslim," he says. The tattoos, he says, had nothing to do with any particular political views.

Imam Muhammad, founder of Masjid 
Al-Ikhlas: "These guys were in no way terrorists."
Lyric Cabral
Imam Muhammad, founder of Masjid Al-Ikhlas: "These guys were in no way terrorists."
FBI Agent Robert Fuller testified that the government was "pretty much in control of what the defendants were doing."
Lyric Cabral
FBI Agent Robert Fuller testified that the government was "pretty much in control of what the defendants were doing."

In fact, he says, he never followed the news in Iraq and Afghanistan. He couldn't even name the president of Afghanistan. "If it don't have nothing to do with me, I don't pay attention to it," he says.

Just prior to his involvement in the Newburgh 4 case, Williams was living in Brooklyn, working in a steakhouse, and attending a technical school to study computers. He only returned to Newburgh because his brother, Lord, fell ill with liver disease. He decided to come home to help his mother, who had to leave her job to care for him.

If not for his brother's sickness, he wouldn't have been in Newburgh and he wouldn't have joined the other three with Hussain: "I'm in Brooklyn. How would I come up with this? Come on."

In the spring of 2008—well before Williams returned to Newburgh, and almost a year before he got involved in the plot—Hussain, the FBI informant, was already there, trolling local mosques without success for radical Islamists.

Hussain met Cromitie in the parking lot of Masjid Al-Iklas, the Newburgh mosque. According to Imam Dr. Salahuddin Muhammad, the founder of the mosque, some mosque members had already complained about Hussain's behavior: "They said this individual was talking about jihad—there's something wrong with this guy, he's not real," Muhammad recalls. "People thought he was an FBI agent. The guy was fishing."

Cromitie was only an occasional visitor to the mosque, Muhammad says. During subsequent meetings with Hussain, Cromitie made statements that were anti-Semitic and anti-American (these initial meetings, however, were not tape-recorded). He also spoke of jihad in the exchanges with Hussain.

"I want to do something to America," Cromitie said, according to Hussain on the very first meeting on June 13, 2008. In another meeting on July 3, 2008, he said he wanted to kill President Bush, Hussain claimed. On October 12, 2008, he expressed "his desire to kill Jews and conduct jihad for an Islamic cause."

But, for a supposed jihadi, Cromitie displayed quite a lot of ambivalence about the plot. He dragged it out and took very little action for months. At one point, he even disappeared, telling Hussain he was moving to North Carolina. (He never actually left Newburgh and simply avoided Hussain for at least six weeks.)

Hussain aggressively pursued Cromitie to get him involved in a terror scheme and provided him with whatever he needed, including gifts, cash, cars, and all the equipment and logistics for the plot.

On December 10, 2008, Hussain reminded Cromitie that the Newburgh man hadn't picked a target, chosen equipment, made up code words, or recruited others: "You've not started on the first step, brother. Come on."

Cromitie replied, "Maybe it's not my mission, then. Maybe my mission hasn't come yet."

On December 18, Hussain left Newburgh, traveled to Pakistan, and returned on February 23. During that period, the FBI stopped following Cromitie. Under cross-examination, FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller acknowledged that Cromitie was unlikely to do anything without the informant's presence.

After that, on the orders of the FBI, Hussain (who went by the name "Maqsood" in the operation) offered a new incentive: a BMW and cash close to $250,000. That was in February, and Cromitie eventually said, "OK, fuck it. I don't care. Ah, man. Maqsood, you got me."

But Cromitie did little more until April, when he called Hussain to ask for money because he had been fired from his job. Hussain pressed him and promised a two-week vacation to Puerto Rico, a car, and a barbershop business if he went along with the plot.

David Williams's name didn't even show up in the investigation until April 2009, nearly a year after Cromitie and Hussain first met. In that April 10 meeting, Williams, Cromitie, and Hussain bought a camera and drove to the Bronx, supposedly to select targets. Williams says he didn't really understand the purpose of the trip.

Williams says that when Cromitie first approached him to get involved, he specifically said that no violence would take place, and only on that basis did Williams agree to get involved, and only then because he was desperate for money to support his family and get a liver transplant for his brother.

"He was like, 'This guy [Hussain] is offering me $250,000, and I'll give you half for your little brother's operation,' " Williams tells the Voice. "Just be a lookout. You don't have to worry about anything happening. Nothing is going to happen."

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