(JTA) — A federal judge who sentenced three men to the minimum 25 years in prison for plotting to blow up synagogues in New York City said the government provoked the crime, while calling the men "thugs."
Manhattan U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon handed down the minimum term on Wednesday. The men could have faced life in prison following their convictions last October for planting bombs at the Riverdale Jewish Center and the Riverdale Temple, both in the Bronx, and of planning to shoot down U.S. military aircraft using surface-to-air missiles.
James Cromitie, Onta Williams and David Williams, all Muslim converts, were arrested in May 2009 after being caught in an FBI sting operation after an informant recruited them outside a mosque in upstate Newburgh.
"The essence of what occurred here is that a government understandably zealous to protect its citizens from terrorism came upon a man both bigoted and suggestible, one who was incapable of committing an act of terrorism on his own," McMahon said at the sentencing. "It created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true." McMahon, who had declined the defense lawyers’ request to dismiss the charges, said the men were "thugs for hire, plain and simple."
The bombs and missiles provided by the FBI informant were disabled.
The sentencing of a fourth man convicted in the plot, Laguerre Payen, who is Haitian, was delayed while he undergoes psychiatric exams.