NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal jury found four men guilty on Monday of placing explosives outside New York synagogues and plotting to shoot down military aircraft.
The four, arrested in an FBI sting operation in May 2009, face the possibility of life in prison following their trial in Manhattan federal court.
Defense lawyers said their clients were improperly lured into the case by an overzealous paid government informant and said they would likely appeal following a trial that was closely watched as a test for the entrapment defense.
An entrapment defense resulting in acquittal is extremely rare in federal terrorism-related cases.
The men were arrested as they planted what they thought were explosives in two cars parked outside synagogues in New York City’s Bronx borough, U.S. prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys said the men, James Cromitie, 44, David Williams, 29, Onta Williams, 34, and Laguerre Payen, 29, were not guilty because they were entrapped in a plan devised by the FBI and orchestrated by the confidential informant, Shahed Hussein.
In addition to planting the explosives, the four intended to shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, with Stinger surface-to-air missiles, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Cromitie, accused of recruiting the three others, was motivated by anti-Jewish sentiments and wanted to participate in holy war.
Cromitie and David Williams were found guilty on all eight charges.
The other two of defendants — Onta Williams and Payen — were found not guilty on one of the lesser charges of attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States.
Vincent Briccetti, Cromitie’s lawyer, declined to comment on the verdict. Susanne Brody, who represented Onta Williams, said the trial was a “miscarriage of justice.” Lawyers indicated in court they will file a motion to have the verdict dismissed.
“Homegrown terrorism is a serious threat, and today’s convictions affirm our commitment to do everything we can to protect against it,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “The defendants in this case agreed to plant bombs and use missiles they thought were very real weapons of terrorism.”
The trial opened in late August and jury deliberations began on October 6. The charges included conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles. Sentencing was set for March 24.
Reporting by Basil Katz; editing by Daniel Trotta and Todd Eastham