A federal judge has upheld the convictions of the Newburgh 4, for plotting to blow up two synagogues and shoot down military airplanes, even though she sharply criticized the government for its tactics.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon’s mixed ruling leaves plenty of grist for defense appeals.
McMahon rejected defense claims that the jury verdict should be overturned because the defendants had no predisposition to terrorism until the FBI got involved, and that the government committed “outrageous conduct” in pursuing the case. McMahon also ruled that the defendants may have been entrapped by the government.
The defense claimed that the FBI and an unethical informant pushed the plot along at all the critical points, supplied all that equipment, transportation and logistics, and gave the defendants gifts to keep them interested in the supposed “plot.”
The defense plans an appeal on behalf of the four men–James Cromitie, Onta Williams, David Williams IV, and Laguerre Payen. David Williams gave the Voice an exclusive interview earlier this year in which he said the four men were hoping to con the FBI informant out of his money without committing any violence.
McMahon, noting that the defense alleged the government created the criminal and manufactured the crime, said in a written ruling “There is some truth to that description of what transpired here. Nonetheless, the motion is denied.”
According to Courthouse News Service, she also wrote, “There is something decidedly troubling about the Government’s behavior vis a vis Cromitie, for three reasons.”
McMahon noted that Cromitie was unlikely to commit a crime without the support of the FBI, that he was “utterly inept,” and waited nine months to “take the bait that was offered to him.”
She described the sting as “troubling,” but said it did not violate the Constitution.
The judge said Cromitie “affirmatively re-injected himself into” the plot, just when the FBI was about to turn away from him as a potential suspect. The judge, importantly, offered support for the claims of David Williams IV in his interview with the Voice.
“He came back to a person he believed to be a Pakistani terrorist and, for money and the cause (primarily, in this court’s opinion, for money),” the judge wrote.
Finally, McMahon offered this: “[T]rolling among the citizens of a troubled community, offering very poor people money if they will play some role, any role, in criminal activity, looks very different to the people of that community than it does to the law enforcement community,” McMahon wrote. “But nothing in any of the limited jurisprudence on outrageous government misconduct suggests that this sort of activity, troubling though it might be, violates anyone’s constitutional rights.”
The Newburgh 4 face 25 years to life at their June 7 sentencing. But the appeals will likely continue for years.