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Federal Judge Criticizes FBI in Ordering Release of ‘Newburgh Four’ Member

In the “Newburgh Four” case a U.S. federal judge ordered the release of James Cromitie, the last member of the group, citing concerns over FBI tactics. The case raises significant questions about the role of law enforcement in counterterrorism operations.

A Landmark Ruling

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A federal judge has ordered the release of James Cromitie, a central figure in the 2010 conviction of the “Newburgh Four.” This group was infamously convicted for plotting attacks on New York synagogues and military aircraft.

The Newburgh Four

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In 2009, four men, later known as the “Newburgh Four,” were implicated in a plan to attack Jewish synagogues and a community center. They also conspired to launch missiles at military aircraft.

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FBI’s Controversial Role

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The judge criticized the FBI for manipulating the defendants through an informant. She described the actions of FBI agents as overzealous, leading to the entrapment of the four men.

Earlier Releases

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Before Cromitie’s release, the other three members – Onta Williams, David Williams, and Laguerra Payen – were freed in July of the previous year. Their convictions, however, remain intact.

Judge McMahon’s Assessment

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Judge McMahon described the case as “notorious” and highlighted the defendants as “hapless” and easily manipulated. She expressed concerns over the government’s involvement in the sting operation.

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Lawyer’s Statement

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Cromitie’s lawyer, as reported by the New York Times, viewed the judge’s order as vindication. They argued that the case represented a “tragic miscarriage of justice.”

Sentencing Adjustments

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Although the judge did not reverse the convictions, she significantly reduced Cromitie’s sentence. He was ordered to serve time already completed plus an additional 90 days.

Cromitie’s Background

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Cromitie, described as a small-time criminal, was financially struggling when he got involved in the FBI-driven plot. He was promised $250,000 to participate in the so-called “jihadist mission.”

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Recruitment of Accomplices

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Cromitie recruited three other men to act as lookouts for the operation. This was done under the influence and direction of the FBI.

FBI’s Manufactured Conspiracy

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Judge McMahon stated, “The FBI invented the conspiracy; identified the targets; manufactured the ordnance.” This statement highlights the FBI’s deep involvement in the creation of the plot.

The Informant’s Role

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Shahed Hussain, an FBI informant, played a crucial role in recruiting Cromitie. The judge criticized Hussain’s tactics in infiltrating mosques and identifying potential extremists.

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Incentives for Participation

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Hussain offered Cromitie both “heavenly and earthly rewards,” including a substantial financial sum, to plan and execute the jihadist mission. This offer was a key factor in Cromitie’s involvement.

Judge’s Condemnation

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The judge’s ruling condemned the FBI’s approach, calling into question their counterterrorism tactics. She labeled Hussain a “villain” for his role in the operation.

Ethical and Legal Implications

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This case brings to light ethical and legal concerns regarding the FBI’s methods in preventing terrorism. The line between lawful sting operations and entrapment is scrutinized.

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Future Implications

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The “Newburgh Four” case and Cromitie’s release may have lasting impacts on counterterrorism strategies. It challenges the traditional interpretation of entrapment and could influence future legal cases.

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