Man gets 25 years in plot to blow up Jewish targets in New York
A federal court judge gave a 25-year sentence Wednesday to a man convicted of plotting to blow up Jewish targets and shoot U.S. military planes out of the sky with what he thought were explosives and Stinger missiles.
The "weapons" turned out to be fakes provided by an FBI informant, whose taped conversations with the defendant, Laguerre Payen, and three other men convinced a jury last October that they were guilty. The jurors rejected defense claims that the men, from the city of Newburgh, N.Y., north of New York City, were victims of entrapment.
All were convicted of conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction in what prosecutors called a major blow to homegrown terrorism.
"Laguerre Payen was a willing participant in a plot to use bombs and missiles to target New York synagogues and U.S. military planes," U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara said in a statement after Judge Colleen McMahon handed down the sentence. "Although these weapons were fake, the defendant believed they were real, and today's sentence underscores the gravity of these crimes."
Payen, 29, was the last of the four defendants to be sentenced. Last June, James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
The high-profile case erupted in the spring of 2009, when law enforcement officials swooped down on the four men outside a synagogue late one night in New York City. The synagogue was allegedly on their list of targets to blow up. By then, the four had been under surveillance for several months after having been befriended by an FBI informant who had passed himself off as a member of a Pakistani-based terrorist group and then secretly recorded their conversations.
Prosecutors said the men were driven by a desire to avenge the deaths of Muslims killed in the war in Afghanistan. The defense said they would never have gone along with the plot to obtain explosives and missiles if the informant had not egged them on.
-- Tina Susman in New York
Photo: This June 29 courtroom sketch shows, left to right, James Cromitie, Onta Williams and David Williams as they listen to Judge Colleen McMahon during sentencing in federal Court in New York. Each received 25 years to life in a plot to blow up Jewish targets in New York. A fourth man, Laguerre Payen, was sentenced to 25 years on Wednesday. Credit: Shirley Shepard / AFP / Getty Images.