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?

Cromitie's lawyer, Vincent Briccetti, writes that once Hussain "cynically" turned Cromitie from an angry and disaffected man into someone motivated by money and spiritual reward, "the government designed, funded, supplied, engineered and directed every detail of a[n] . . . entirely fake terrorist plot."

Cromitie, Briccetti writes, had never engaged in any action similar to the plot, nor did he have the resources, skills, or money to do it. And, most importantly, he did nothing "on his own" to further the plot, he writes.

Hussain made up the plan, identified the targets, and supplied the transportation and equipment, including the fake bombs, a non-functioning Stinger missile, a safe house, two storage facilities, rental cars, cameras, and cell phones. He suggested the code words, trained the four men on the weapons, assembled the fake bombs, and paid for everything, including meals, rent, groceries, and personal expenses.

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

"The defendants, by contrast, did little more than ride around in Hussain's fancy cars and follow his orders to carry bags from one location to another," Briccetti writes. "The government did not produce any evidence that the defendants took a single step to further the conspiracy when they were not with Hussain. In short, this was a government show from start to finish."

He points out that FBI Special Agent Fuller admitted on the witness stand, when the defendants were with Hussain, that the government was "pretty much in control of what the defendants were doing."

"Without the government's guiding hand, no crime would or could have occurred," Briccetti writes.

The motion awaits a judge's decision, but in a previous ruling, one judge noted that if the evidence shows that Cromitie did nothing more than make anti-Semitic and anti-U.S. statements—protected by the First Amendment—"and the government responded by setting a criminal scheme in motion and coaxing it to fruition, the court will have to take a fresh look at the defendants' argument." Briccetti argues that that is exactly what happened.

"Cromitie never came up with any concrete ideas or plans for any terrorist plot," he says.

With a case built around one witness—the government informant—his credibility was naturally a major issue in the trial. The defense claims that Hussain lied repeatedly and exaggerated statements made by the defendants.

The judge herself noted she was "skeptical" about some statements that Hussain made, and said the FBI's notes of their debriefings of the informant "don't reflect many of the significant things Hussain claims to have told them."

"The critical conversations in which Cromitie ostensibly came up with the idea to do jihad are conveniently not on any tape or video recording," the judge noted.

Just to take one example, cited by the defense: Hussain claimed on June 23, 2008, that Cromitie told him he hated Jews and American soldiers and said he would kill President Bush 700 times. But Hussain didn't tell the FBI this when they spoke to him directly after that meeting, the defense says.

Instead, the notes indicate that Hussain said Cromitie "wanted to straighten out and was trying to be a good Muslim." One would think that if Cromitie had indeed made any offensive remarks, the FBI would have noted them.

In a meeting on October 19, 2008, Cromitie complained that Jews treat him differently because he is Muslim. Hussain then told him that Jews are "responsible for all the evils in the world."Cromitie replied, "They aren't responsible for that. I don't want to go that far."

In a separate motion for a new trial, the quartet's lawyers argue that Hussain committed perjury in his testimony. "Hussain lied repeatedly, pervasively and shamelessly," the lawyers write.Confronted with those lies, they argue, the federal prosecutors ignored their ethical and constitutional duties to correct them. Instead, they decided to simply "pretend that it did not believe Hussain told any intentional lies or was perjuring himself in any way, dismissing even the most glaring fabrications and contradictions as nothing more than 'inaccuracies' and 'mistakes' attributable to a 'bad memory.' "

For example, Hussain portrayed himself as a struggling businessman whose only income was a modest amount from a motel he owned and $52,000 from the FBI. Then, on cross-examination, he admitted he had received $250,000 from a family trust fund in Pakistan in 2009 and 2010 and $50,000 more in 2007.

"He lied on his immigration papers, he made fraudulent tax filings, he lied to his probation officer," a source close to the case says. "He had hundreds of thousands of dollars coming into his accounts from unknown sources. Tell me what the government is doing with this CI?"

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors filed a 126-page rebuttal to the defense motions, stating that the jury heard about Hussain's shortcomings, heard the entrapment defense, heard the argument that Cromitie was manipulated, and still found the four defendants guilty.

"The most basic flaw in the defendants' motion is the little heed they pay to the jury's verdict: they press their claims as if they were still at the podium summing up; as if there had been no verdicts of guilt; and as if those verdicts were not entitled to substantial deference," prosecutors David Raskin, Jason Halperin, and Adam Hickey write.

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