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 says that the government offered several plea deals to the four defendants. But he turned down those offers, including a final one that would have put him in prison for 13 years. Now, for having gone to trial, he faces life in prison.

"If I really felt guilty, or felt we were actually going to do this [attack], I would have taken the 13 years," he says. "But in my heart, I knew we weren't going to do anything, and so I turned down the offer and went to trial. We just knew we could beat it. The only thing that's important is our intentions—our true intentions—not what the government put out there."

Williams was confident enough that the government's case would fall apart under cross-examination of the informant to turn down the plea deals. The trial verdict was a bitter shock.

Family members like Alicia McWilliams say the Newburgh 4 case 
is more FBI fantasy than terrorist takedown.
Lyric Cabral
Family members like Alicia McWilliams say the Newburgh 4 case is more FBI fantasy than terrorist takedown.
Jordin Isip

"Evidence-wise, we had them beat," he says. "We got convicted on feelings. They [prosecutors] started talking about 9/11, and James was saying a lot of stuff that was ill and real stupid, and we got convicted on that. Once you put 'terrorist' in front of anything, it's like being charged with rape or child molestation. Once a jury hears that you're accused of a certain type of crime, you're already guilty."

Following his arrest, David Williams was sent to Valhalla, a jail in Westchester County, to await trail. He says that he was held in near-isolation, 23 hours a day in his cell, for four months. He was searched twice a day, ordered each time to crouch in the corner of his cell on his knees, cross his legs, put his hands on his head and lean his forehead against the wall.

"[Correction officers] were trying to tear me down for reasons only God and their hearts know," he writes. Westchester "almost broke me mentally."

One officer, telling him his son was half-Jewish, told Williams he wished him 60 years in jail. Officers called him a "radical Taliban." Another said Williams would get the death penalty. Yet another claimed he knocked down the pictures in Williams's cell in case he was hiding "anthrax powder" there. A somewhat more sympathetic correction officer eventually told Williams that they were told to "go hard" on him.

"If I am presumed innocent until proven guilty, why was I feeling the wrath of people's hate, especially when the facts have yet to be told?" he wrote at the time.

Williams's letters from jail are those from a man consumed with regret over being so stupid as to allow himself to be drawn into the scheme to get money out of Hussain. He expresses the fear of rotting away in a super-maximum prison for the rest of his life and of never seeing his children again. He also expresses frustration with some of his relatives, for, as he writes, "turning their backs to me as if I were an enemy of the state."

Williams talks about suing the government for false arrest. He feels "dumb for allowing myself to be in such a jam." He writes that he wants to "expose our government's lies": "We went from convicts, taxpayers, fathers, etc., to terrorists overnight, and we were never terrorists," he writes.

He expresses repeatedly that he will continue to press for his release. He says he is thankful for his supporters—including his aunt, Alicia McWilliams—who has been trying to rally local politicians to get involved. He has allowed his beard to grow as a symbol of that.

"I guess you can say that I'm like a woman when she's pregnant: Emotions are everywhere but where they should be," he writes in a January 25 letter.

In another letter to a loved one, he writes, "I am humbled to hear you understand my reasons for what I did for Lord, and to ask if I would ever do it again, yes, I would just as long as our plan remained the same, meaning no one would be hurt of course. My decision was crazy, emotional, but never will I kill any human beings."

Williams says he was fairly abruptly transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federally run holding facility in Manhattan. The conditions eased somewhat. Now, he was locked down for 18 hours a day, instead of the previous 23 hours.

"Besides the past and some biased words and feelings, I'm treated as a regular inmate, besides being searched everyday, being escorted everywhere, I go around the jail."

More recently, Williams was transferred again, to the federal holding facility in Brooklyn known as Metropolitan Detention Center, and he says things have settled down.

He has taken to writing poetry. He says he has decided to change his name to "King Solomon."

In a more recent letter, dated January 19, 2011, he writes that dwelling on the case "just reopens the wounds of a justice system that has failed its citizens."

The Newburgh 4's hopes currently rest on two things: the goodwill of the federal judge in the case, and a series of motions filed by their lawyers. One of the motions demands dismissal of the case for "outrageous government conduct."

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