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"The Newburgh 4"...The "Un-Terrorism" Case

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    Info Briefs on The Newburgh 4 ...The Un-Terrorism Case ssaala@aol.com THE PEACE THRU JUSTICE FOUNDATION RAJAB 1431 A.H. (June 17, 2010) THE NEWBURGH 4: The
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      Info Briefs on "The Newburgh 4"...The "Un-Terrorism" Case
      ssaala@...
      THE PEACE THRU JUSTICE FOUNDATION
      RAJAB 1431 A.H.
      (June 17, 2010)


      THE NEWBURGH 4: The "Un-Terrorism" Case

      Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
      "Equal Justice Under the Law," are words that can be found on many courthouses throughout the land, but far too often (where it applies to the socially and/or politically marginalized) these are words devoid of true meaning.

      In the case now known as The Newburgh 4, however, a principled jurist, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, has provided these words with the type of substantive resonance that is long overdue.

      As I sat and observed the proceedings on Monday, June 14 - in the U.S. District Court in White Plains, New York - not only was I pleasantly surprised to see this judge hold federal prosecutors to a standard of accountability uncustomary for these types of cases, but I thought to myself, if Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the Fort Dix 5 (and many others) had experienced such a fair-minded judge in their cases, the outcomes would have probably been much different. (Surely ALLAH knows best.)

      Judge McMahon's opening statement – before the start of argumentation – focused on the government's obligation to provide the defense with most (if not all) of the relevant documents in the case, and included a stinging criticism for their recalcitrant behavior spanning more than a year.

      The government, for its part, attempted to raise the national security shield, arguing in part: "This is not an international terrorism case, but its tentacles reach as far as that type of case." (Judge McMahon refused to buy into that farce.)

      At one point there was a one hour break in the proceedings to allow the prosecution time to deliberate on whether it would comply with the judge's ruling regarding its Brady obligation, or appeal it. The government decided it would appeal – which will now push the start of the trial back even further.

      Here are a few other memorable quotes from the June 14th proceeding:
      "We have to do what we normally do in a case that involves classified information." – The Prosecution

      "The defense intends to pursue a motion for dismissal because of the outrageous government conduct [involved in this case]." – The Defense

      "Almost everything about this work is a curve ball…but there are very few involved in this case." – Judge McMahon

      We fully agree with the court's assessment that the issues in this case are clear; and further, that any exculpatory evidence involved in this case should have been turned over by government prosecutors long before the anticipated start of the trial. We believe that the government's failure to do so – and its recalcitrant stance in the face of Judge McMahon's order – graphically underscores the weakness of the government's case.

      While not dismissing the gravity of what the accused were reportedly willing to do, it is a well established fact that no "conspiracy" would have occurred without the presence, instigation and manipulations of the government paid agent-provocateur; a government agent who callously preyed upon the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of each of the accused.

      At the end of the day, the "tentacles" of which the government spoke, were those generated by the government's own actions in this alarming case.

      The Newburgh 4 case has the potential to assist the growing anti-preemptive prosecution movement in a very significant way. It is for this reason that we strongly encourage concerned citizens of all stripes to follow this case closely. The next proceeding will be a bail hearing at 10 am on Monday, June 21. (Family and supporters will gather in front of the courthouse at 9 am.)

      In the struggle for peace thru justice,
      El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan

      The Federal Court House is located at
      300 Quarropas Street
      White Plains, NY 10601
      What follows is a little background information (in the form of news releases) on The Newburgh 4 case.
      --------------------------------

      Trial of Newburgh Men Accused of Terror Plot Delayed
      By WILLIAM GLABERSON
      June 14, 2010
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/nyregion/15terror.html


      A federal judge on Monday indefinitely delayed the trial of four Newburgh, N.Y., men charged with trying to bomb Bronx synagogues and shoot down military planes, saying prosecutors had failed to turn over information that should have been given to the defense.

      Enlarge This Image

      Michael Appleton for The New York Times
      Elizabeth McWilliams, the mother of David Williams, one of four men accused of plotting to bomb local synagogues, after a federal judge delayed the trial of the four men.


      Michael Appleton for The New York Times
      Susanne Brody, the lawyer for another defendant, Onta Williams.

      The judge, Colleen McMahon of United States District Court for the Southern District, excused the entire panel of potential jurors for the trial; it had been scheduled to begin, with stringent security, in White Plains on Wednesday. The judge also scheduled a hearing to consider whether to grant bail for the four men, who have been imprisoned since they were arrested in May 2009, in what prosecutors at the time described as a plot to commit mass murder in the New York City area.

      The plot, prosecutors said, was to bomb two synagogues in the Riverdale area of the Bronx and to shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.

      The defense claims that the four men were entrapped and that the plot was entirely the product of a paid government informant, Shaheed Hussain, a Pakistani with a criminal history. The judge has recently indicated that the prosecutors have stepped away from early alarmist language about the plot.

      During a court proceeding on Monday, Judge McMahon also said she would consider a motion from the defense to dismiss the indictment.

      The prosecutors, from the United States attorney's office in Manhattan, are considering whether to appeal the judge's ruling. But it appeared that the trial would not be rescheduled for many months, either way.

      Samuel Braverman, a lawyer for one of the defendants, said the judge's ruling showed "a tremendous weakness in the government's case" and would recast many of the legal arguments.

      Each of the defendants, all Muslim converts, faces an eight-count indictment. The charges include conspiracy to kill government employees and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and antiaircraft missiles.

      If convicted, the men — James Cromitie, David Williams IV, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen — could face life in prison.

      The trial was expected to focus on a defense contention that the government's informant planned, directed and paid for every aspect of the plot. Defense lawyers referred to him as an agent provocateur, not a mere informant; the dispute that forced the delay of the trial on Monday focused on that issue.

      Last week, the prosecutors turned over to the defense a 2008 memorandum from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, written by the lead agent on the case, Robert Fuller. During the investigation, Mr. Fuller wrote, he told officials at Stewart Airport that Mr. Cromitie, the leader of the Newburgh group, would be looking over the airport for a potential attack but that he would pose no danger without the assistance of the informant.

      Judge McMahon said the memorandum should have been turned over to the defense months earlier. Legal rules require prosecutors to give the defense information in government custody that tends to establish innocence or provides material to challenge the credibility of witnesses.

      The prosecutors argued that the memorandum did not meet the legal definition of information they were required to turn over. But if the judge felt it did, they said in court, they would be required to conduct extensive new inquiries across the government to see if there was similar information in other agencies.

      A spokesman for the prosecutors, Herbert Hadad, declined to comment.

      The prosecutors also said that if they found more information, some of it might be classified, requiring time-consuming security clearances for the defense lawyers before any trial could proceed. The judge angrily said the prosecutors should have prepared to provide such information as the scheduled trial date had approached.

      Mr. Braverman said the defense lawyers applauded Judge McMahon's ruling because, he said, it recognized that the F.B.I. memorandum provided support for the defense contention that there would have been no plot without the informant.

      "But for the insistence and persistence of the government's informant, this case never would have occurred," he said. "You never would have heard of our four guys."

      ===

      Newburgh 4 trial postponed after judge's ruling
      By Timothy O'Connor • tpoconnor@...
      June 14, 2010
      http://www.lohud.com/article/20100614/NEWS02/6140370/-1/newsfront/Newburgh-4-trial-postponed-after-judge-s-


      WHITE PLAINS — The Newburgh 4 terror trial has been postponed — perhaps for months — following a judge's ruling that federal prosecutors said could necessitate declassifying materials, getting security clearance for defense lawyers and reviewing files of other government agencies.

      Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin said federal prosecutors might appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon regarding material in the government's possession that might support the defense's assertion that the four men were entrapped by a government informant ande the FBI.

      Today's earlier Newburgh 4 terror trial story.

      McMahon gave Raskin 48 hours to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, implying that if he didn't she would order the government to give defense lawyers an email contained in a letter federal prosecutors sent to the judge over the weekend.

      At issue is whether certain material the government has - including that email - falls under federal prosecutors' legal obligation to give to the defense under a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland. The material takes its name from that case and is referred to as Brady.

      Federal prosecutors disagree with the judge's ruling that the material is Brady. But, they said, in order to comply with the judge's ruling they would have to get documents that are classified as well as under the control of other agencies. Then, they said, defense lawyers and even members of McMahon's staff would have to undergo security clearance procedures to look at the documents. Raskin said security clearance could take three months. McMahon said the entire process could take six to nine months.

      The delay came as 140 jurors were prepared for vetting in the case that had been scheduled for opening arguments on Wednesday.

      McMahon said she would listen to bail applications from James Cromitie, 44; Onta Williams, 32; David Williams, 28; and Laguerre Payen, 27, next Monday. This will be the first bail applications in a case where the four men were arrested May 20, 2009, seconds after placing what they thought were bombs outside synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

      ===

      Newburgh 4 terror trial: Dupes or dangerous? Trial to begin Wednesday
      By Timothy O'Connor • tpoconnor@...
      June 14, 2010
      http://www.lohud.com/article/20106140323


      Four Newburgh men were arrested by police and federal agents after planting what they thought were bombs outside Bronx synagogues on the night of May 20, 2009.

      They were in the midst of a two-leg plan that was to include a trip back up to Orange County to shoot down military aircraft with a Stinger missile.

      When jurors hear opening arguments Wednesday in the case in the federal courthouse in White Plains, they are unlikely to hear any disagreement on what happened that night.

      But what they are going to hear from federal prosecutors and the men's lawyers are two completely different versions of what put those four men outside those houses of worship in the Riverdale section that night.

      Hate put them there, federal prosecutors have said in court papers. Hatred of Jews. Hatred of America. James Cromitie, 44; Onta Williams, 32; David Williams, 28; and Laguerre Payen, 27; wanted to do harm to people and country they held responsible for the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan, prosecutors said.

      "The evidence at trial will show (Cromitie) for what he really is: a hate-filled, virulent anti-Semite who wanted to commit terrorist acts against Jews and the United States," assistant U.S. attorneys Eric Snyder and Jason P.W. Halperin wrote.

      "It was Cromitie, a long-time criminal and drug trafficker who boasted to the (government informant) about how he had thrown bombs into police stations years before, who said he wanted to shoot President George W. Bush 'seven hundred times,' who said he wanted to commit 'jihad,' and who said he wanted to do things 'for a cause, not just because.'"

      Hate had nothing to do with it, defense lawyers said.

      It was the government and its informant that put the men there, they wrote in court papers.

      "From beginning to end, the government, acting through a professional informant named Shaheed Hussain, proposed, directed, supplied, funded and facilitated every aspect of the 'terrorist' plot with which the defendants are charged," wrote Susanne Brody, the court-appointed lawyer for Onta Williams.

      They were dangerous, the government will argue to the jury.


      They were dupes, the defense will say.

      And to make their cases, both sides will rely heavily on the hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings made by the informant and federal agents during the 11-month investigation.

      The FBI began recording the four men and the informant in October 2008.

      On Oct. 12, 2008, during a meeting at a Newburgh house that had been wired for audio and video by the FBI, Cromitie — the lead defendant who allegedly recruited the other three men — told the informant he wanted to kill Jews.

      "It doesn't make me angry ... it just makes me want to jump up and kill one of them," he said, according to transcripts included in court papers. "That's what it makes me want to do."

      But Cromitie never expressed any anti-Semitic sentiments on recordings of conversations he had with other people, defense lawyers said.

      "There is no independent evidence that Cromitie actually believed the things he said," Brody wrote. "Notably, the government intercepted thousands of Cromitie's telephone calls to persons other than Hussain. On these calls, Cromitie does not make anti-Semitic or anti-American comments."

      Cromitie and the others were destitute ex-convicts lured by Husain's promises of money, cars, and medical treatment to take part in a plot they didn't devise or develop, defense lawyers said.

      Hussain, they said, was the one who stoked anti-Semitism.

      And they say tapes from the same Oct. 12, 2008, meeting show that.

      "Every evil in the world that happens is because of them (Jews)," Husain said on the recording, according to defense lawyers' transcripts filed with court papers.

      The informant badgered Cromitie to come up with targets to hit as part of the plot, defense lawyers said.

      "First you have to find out what your plans are," Hussain told Cromitie on one recording.

      "Do you have a plan?" he asked on another. "You put a plan in and you just tell me what you need."

      But federal prosecutors said Cromitie had big ideas for targets and lamented that the World Trade Center was not an available site to hit since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

      "The best target was hit already," he said to the informant. "I would like to hit the bridge."

      Told by the informant that steel bridges are hard to bring down, Cromitie wasn't dissuaded.

      "Of course, they're made of steel," he said.

      "But the same way they can be put up they can be brought down."

      ===

      Newburgh Four terror trial delayed; Government not ready
      Timothy O'Connor
      Gannett News Service
      June 14, 2010


      Newburgh 4 terror trial: From left, Pastor Doug Cunningham from the New Day United Methodist Church in the Bronx and Alicia McWilliam, aunt to Onta Williams, one of 4 men facing federal charges in connection to a plot to blow up a synagogue in Yonkers, hold a press conference and prayer in front of the United States Federal Courthouse in White Plains June 14, 2010. ((Ricky Flores / The Journal News)


      WHITE PLAINS — The Newburgh 4 terror trial has been postponed — perhaps for months — following a judge's ruling that federal prosecutors said could necessitate declassifying materials, getting security clearance for defense lawyers and reviewing files of other government agencies.


      Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin said federal prosecutors might appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon regarding material in the government's possession that might support the defense's assertion that the four men were entrapped by a government informant ande the FBI.

      McMahon gave Raskin 48 hours to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, implying that if he didn't she would order the government to give defense lawyers an email contained in a letter federal prosecutors sent to the judge over the weekend.


      At issue is whether certain material the government has - including that email - falls under federal prosecutors' legal obligation to give to the defense under a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland. The material takes its name from that case and is referred to as Brady.

      Federal prosecutors disagree with the judge's ruling that the material is Brady. But, they said, in order to comply with the judge's ruling they would have to get documents that are classified as well as under the control of other agencies. Then, they said, defense lawyers and even members of McMahon's staff would have to undergo security clearance procedures to look at the documents. Raskin said security clearance could take three months.

      McMahon said the entire process could take six to nine months.

      The delay came as 140 jurors were prepared for vetting in the case that had been scheduled for opening arguments on Wednesday.

      McMahon said she would listen to bail applications from James Cromitie, 44; Onta Williams, 32; David Williams, 28; and Laguerre Payen, 27, next Monday.

      This will be the first bail applications in a case where the four men were arrested May 20, 2009, seconds after placing what they thought were bombs outside synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

      ===

      Newburgh Terrorism Case May Establish a Line for Entrapment
      By WILLIAM GLABERSON
      June 15, 2010
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/nyregion/16terror.html?ref=nyregion


      WHITE PLAINS — When four Muslim converts from Newburgh, N.Y., were charged last year with planning to bomb Bronx synagogues and shoot down military planes at Stewart International Airport, officials described the plan as a chilling effort to commit local terrorism.

      On Monday, the trial of the men was indefinitely postponed by a federal judge. But while this highly unusual turn of events threw much of the case into chaos, it helped clarify a central question: Did a shadowy informant encourage the men to plot mass murder, or did he go too far and manufacture a plan for mayhem?

      The judge, Colleen McMahon, excused potential jurors on Monday and criticized the prosecutors for being late in giving the defense an investigator's report suggesting that the men — a group of ex-convicts and drug offenders — were incapable of carrying out a complex attack without the informer, a fast-talker who was on the government payroll.

      The dispute, as well as previous comments from Judge McMahon, suggests that the case will focus on the defense claim that the four were entrapped with promises of a $250,000 payment and a BMW, and that the men were so ill-equipped to plan an attack that none had a driver's license or a car.

      Infiltrators — civilian informers and government agents — have played a part in more than 30 terrorism investigations since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including the plan to bomb the Herald Square subway station, the plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and the arrests last week of two New Jersey men on charges of seeking to join a militant group in Somalia.

      But some terrorism experts say that the informant's role in the Newburgh plot was more active than most, and that the case could define when a permissible sting operation becomes illegal entrapment.

      "The degree to which the government seems to have led on the defendants is much more aggressive than we have seen in other cases," said Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, which tracks terrorism prosecutions.

      Defense lawyers in the Newburgh case refer to the informant — Shaheed Hussain, a Pakistani who was an informant in an earlier terrorism sting in Albany that was controversial — as an agent provocateur who earned his keep by scouring mosques for easy targets. Mr. Hussain "proposed, directed, supplied, funded and facilitated every aspect of the `terrorist' plot," defense lawyers said in a court filing. He attended to every detail, they said, including assembling weapons when the defendants could not follow his instructions.

      The prosecutors declined to comment. But in legal filings they have said the investigation was "exemplary law enforcement work" and argued that secret recordings would show that the leader of the group, James Cromitie, was a "hate-filled, virulent anti-Semite who wanted to commit terrorist acts against Jews and the United States."

      They say Mr. Cromitie, a career criminal, was the real instigator of the plan. Mr. Cromitie, 43 at the time, referred to Osama bin Laden as "my brother," according to prosecutors.

      In the elaborate sting, Mr. Hussain arranged for the plotters to pick up fake bombs. The prosecutors noted that Mr. Cromitie and his three co-defendants "actually showed up and placed what they believed to be improvised explosive devices" in front of two synagogues, the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center. They were arrested at the scene.

      In May, Judge McMahon declined a defense request to dismiss the charges because of Mr. Hussain's role in the plot. But she noted that the case was centering on the sting.

      "Did the government become aware of potential criminal activity and take action to neutralize a real terrorist threat," she wrote, "or did it locate some disaffected individuals, manufacture a phony terrorist plot that the individuals would (and could) never have dreamed up or carried out on their own, and then wrongfully induce them to participate in it?"

      The men — Mr. Cromitie, David Williams IV, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen — could face life in prison if convicted of charges that include conspiracy and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and antiaircraft missiles.

      The entrapment defense seeks acquittal with the claim that a government agent fostered a crime that a defendant was not predisposed to commit. It has been notably unsuccessful in terrorism cases.

      Ms. Greenberg of the Center on Law and Security said that of the more than 30 terrorism prosecutions involving informers since 2001, the center knew of no case in which the entrapment defense had been successful.

      Still, civil liberties lawyers say they have been troubled as information has emerged in court cases about informants who have flattered and deceived Muslim men in one community after another. Christopher Dunn, the associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the case before Judge McMahon could define the limits of the terrorism sting.

      "The Newburgh case," Mr. Dunn said, "may be a pivotal test of just how far the government can go."

      Some lawyers argue that even an over-the-top performance by an informant who flashes money and pushes audacious terrorism schemes may serve the government well. Dru Stevenson, a professor at the South Texas College of Law who has written about entrapment in terrorism cases, said the government might want to foster the suspicion that comes from a clumsy infiltrator.

      "If you have a person who is capable of committing terrorism," Mr. Stevenson said, "you want them to worry that the person recruiting them at the mosque is an F.B.I. informer."

      But infiltration and lies have a cost, said Shamshad Ahmad, a physics lecturer at the State University of New York at Albany who is president of the local mosque. He knew the two Muslim men in the Albany plot, the mosque's imam and a pizzeria owner, who were convicted after an intricate sting.

      In Albany, Mr. Hussain, the same informant who later worked in Newburgh, spun out a fake money laundering plan that included a demonstration of a shoulder-fired missile, along with gifts and false friendship.

      "I never imagined the United States would do this," said Dr. Ahmad, who came to this country from India more than 30 years ago. "Soviet Union I could have expected it. Third world country, yes. Mafia, yes. But not the Justice Department."

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