June 17, 2024
Judge Frees Man Entrapped by FBI in Terrorism Sting

Judge Frees Man Entrapped by FBI in Terrorism Sting

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) A man convicted in a post-9/11 terrorism sting was ordered freed from prison by a judge who criticized the FBI for relying on an “unsavory” confidential informant for an agency-invented conspiracy to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down National Guard planes.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon on Friday granted James Cromitie, 58, compassionate release from prison six months after she ordered the release of his three co-defendants, known as the Newburgh Four, for similar reasons. The four men from the small river city 60 miles north of New York City were convicted of terrorism charges in 2010.

When Judge McMahon freed the other three defendants last July, she criticized the FBI’s role in radicalizing them.

Onta Williams, David Williams and Laguerre Payen—three of the men known as the “Newburgh Four”—were “hapless, easily manipulated and penurious petty criminals” caught up more than a decade ago in a scheme driven by overzealous FBI agents and a dodgy informant, Judge McMahon said in her ruling last July.

Though a jury had already rejected the men’s argument that they were entrapped by the FBI more than 10 years ago, McMahon’s opinion excoriated the bureau for doing just that.

“The real lead conspirator was the United States,” McMahon wrote in granting the men’s request for compassionate release, effective in three months.

McMahon outlined how Hussain manipulated the lead defendant, Cromite, by pretending to be a wealthy Pakistani businessman, promising Cromite as much as $250,000 if he would plan, participate in and find others to join a jihadist “mission.”

In 2008, Cromite then recruited Onta and David Williams, as well as Payen, to serve as “lookouts” while he planted “bombs” manufactured by the FBI at a synagogue and community center in Riverdale.

“Nothing about the crimes of conviction was of defendants’ own doing,” the judge said last July.

At the time, Cromitie wasn’t part of the compassionate release request and was expected to complete his prison sentence in 2030. But Judge McMahon also ordered his release last week, and had similar comments about the FBI’s conduct towards him.

“The notion that Cromitie was selected as a ‘leader’ by the co-defendants is inconceivable, given his well-documented buffoonery and ineptitude,” she wrote.

Cromitie has served 15 years of his 25-year minimum sentence. The New York-based judge ordered Cromitie’s sentence to be reduced to time served plus 90 days.

Cromitie’s attorney, Kerry Lawrence, said Saturday he had not yet been able to reach his client, but that Cromitie’s family was very happy.

“I’m obviously thrilled that Mr. Cromitie will be released from prison, but still believe that his conviction was entirely the product of government entrapment,” Lawrence wrote in an email. “Seeing as he was hounded and manipulated by the government informant way more than any of … the other defendants who were previously ordered released, it would have been shocking if Judge McMahon didn’t grant our motion.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.


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