Photo: Associated Press/Robert Mecea In this photo taken Thursday, May 21, 2009, James Cromitie, center, is led by police officers out of a federal building in New York after being arrested on charges related to a planned bombing in the Bronx .
Michael Hill – Associated Press
January 20, 2024
- United States
A man convicted in a post-9/11 terrorism case was released from prison by a judge who criticized the FBI for relying on an “unsavory” confidential informant in connection with an agency-invented plot to bomb New York synagogues and shoot down National Guard planes.
U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon granted James Cromitie, 58, a compassionate release from prison on Friday, six months after ordering the release of his three co-defendants, known as the Newburgh Four, on similar grounds. The four men from the small river town 60 miles north of New York were convicted of terrorism in 2010.
Cromitie served 15 years of his 25-year minimum sentence. The New York-based judge ordered Cromitie's sentence reduced to time served plus 90 days.
Prosecutors in the high-profile case said the Newburgh defendants spent months scouting targets and securing what they believed to be explosives and an anti-aircraft missile, with the goal of shooting down planes at the base. the Newburgh Air National Guard and bombing synagogues in the Bronx. They were arrested after allegedly planting “bombs” filled with inert explosives supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Critics accused federal agents of snaring a group of men who were down on their luck after serving prison time.
In a scathing decision, Judge McMahon wrote that the FBI invented the plot and identified the targets. Cromitie and his co-defendants, she wrote, “would not and could not have imagined on their own a crime involving missiles that would have justified the 25-year sentence that the court was forced to impose.”
“The notion that Cromitie was chosen as a ‘leader’ by the co-defendants is inconceivable, given his well-documented buffoonery and incompetence,” she wrote.
Cromitie was implicated in this bogus plot by federal informant Shaheed Hussain, whose work has been criticized for years by civil liberties groups.
Judge McMahon called him “very disreputable” and a “bad guy” sent by the government to go “among the poorest and weakest men in search of 'terrorists' who may prove susceptible to a much-needed offer of money in exchange for the commission of a false crime.”
Mr. Hussain also worked with the FBI on an operation targeting an Albany, New York, pizzeria owner and imam that involved a loan using money from a fictitious missile sale. The two men, who claimed to have been deceived, were convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to aid a terrorist group.
Mr. Hussain gained attention again in 2018 when a limousine crashed in rural Schoharie, New York, killing 20 people. Hussain owned the limousine company, operated by his son, Nauman Hussain.
Nauman Hussain was convicted of manslaughter last year and is serving five to 15 years in prison.
Cromitie's attorney, Kerry Lawrence, said Saturday that he had not yet been able to reach his client, but that Cromitie's family was very happy.
“I am obviously pleased that Mr. Cromitie is being released from prison, but I still believe his conviction was entirely the product of government entrapment,” Mr. Lawrence wrote in an email. Given that he was stalked and manipulated by the government informant far more than any of the other defendants previously ordered released, it would have been shocking if Judge McMahon had not granted our request. »
Requests for comment were made Saturday to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York.