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"We knew nothing was going to happen," he adds. "He offered the money, and we were just plotting to rip him off."
In a recent letter to a friend, Williams writes, "My role—our role in this case—was to get over on the CI and get that money he was offering us."
Williams says that when they spoke outside of the presence of the informant, they only talked about what they would do with the money they would get. They never spoke about "jihad," or the plot, or anything related to terrorism.
Moreover, he says that the four men barely knew each other. He knew Cromitie a little through his brother, who worked with him at Wal-Mart. He knew Onta Williams better because they'd sold drugs together in the past. He didn't know Payen at all.
"Prior to this, I never actually interacted with James [Cromitie]," Williams says. "Before this, I never really sat down and talked with him. Then, all we did was smoke lots of weed and played video games—NBA 2K, mostly," he says.
Williams says he didn't meet Hussain until April 10, 2009, just five weeks before the phony plot took place.
"I came into this basically at the end, and the other two defendants came in five days after me [records show it was April 28]," Williams says. "When I came in, everything was already in the making—planning, codes, targets, day of the operation, the whole government made-up mission."
He says Hussain gave him $160 during that period, and promised to get him money for his brother's liver transplant operation and a doctor who could help. Williams says he only cooperated with Hussain because he wanted to take even more money from him.
Cromitie, meanwhile, was also not being very truthful with Hussain. Cromitie claimed he was the commander of a team training for jihad in the woods with guns. It wasn't true. Cromitie promised to introduce Hussain to this "security team," but never did because it didn't exist.
Cromitie claimed he had gone to Afghanistan. He claimed he had blown up a police station. He claimed he served 15 years in prison for attempted murder. He claimed he stole handguns from Wal-Mart. None of it was true.
"Every time James lied to him, or said something anti-American or whatever, the informant would give him money," Williams says. "Cromitie knew what the informant wanted to hear and gave it to him so he could get that money. I even lied to the informant about a bunch of stuff. Like I said, we were always lying to him, and he was always lying to us."
Williams added, "I told the CI a bunch of stories about prison that were exaggerated. I never said anything about being radical. Just as far as seeing stabbings. Again, we were just trying to convince him that we were this band that was going to do this."
In the trial, the government made much of the May 6, 2009, meeting in which Hussain showed the four plotters the "missile." Asked why he even attended that meeting, Williams says, "Every move we made, it was because of [Hussain]. I didn't want to go to that meeting. But we were following along, looking for the money—we was just playing the script. I said things that obviously I wasn't going to do. He was lying to us, and we was lying to him."
Williams says he had an open grand larceny case in Queens for which he was scheduled to be sentenced on May 13. If the FBI hadn't secretly intervened and had the date changed, he would have been in jail when the supposed plot climaxed on May 20.
When that critical day came, Williams says that the informant outmaneuvered them by refusing to give them the keys to UPS mailboxes supposedly containing the cash until after they left for Riverdale. "He knew if he gave us the keys in Newburgh, I would have been out of that car," he says.
As proof of this decision not to commit violence, Williams claims that none of the defendants actually switched on the cell-phone triggers for the "bombs." It was Hussain, he says, who connected the phones to the bombs.
Williams says that about five minutes after he was deposited near the synagogue—supposedly to act as a lookout—he decided to walk away. He wanted to visit his son in Coney Island and went looking for a subway station. It got dark, and he got a little lost looking for the station.
"I walked toward the highway, but then it got dark, so I went back around looking for a hill where I had seen the subway station," he says. "A helicopter was following me, and that's when the SWAT team jumped out on me."
"He was leaving the situation," Alicia McWilliams says.
Because Williams never testified, the federal jury never got to hear his side of the story. That's something that he now regrets. "The lawyers were like they were going to pick [Hussain] to pieces," he says. "They said we don't need to testify. They felt they were strong enough to win. I wanted to testify, and I wish I had. I have a lot to say."