According to CBS News, a man who was accused of building homemade bombs to supposedly “wage holy war” in NYC pleaded guilty today to a terrorism charge less than a week before his scheduled trial. This is a somewhat-rare occurrence, since it’s a “state-level” terrorism case, instead of a federal one. However, we must ask the question: would he have built bombs if the NYPD hadn’t sent in informants and undercover agents to incite him to do so?
Jose Pimentel (also known as Muhammad Yusuf), had he not pleaded guilty, would have faced a minimum of 15 years to life in prison if he had been convicted of the top charge of a high-level weapons possession offense as a terrorism crime. Since he pleaded guilty, however, he was promised a sentence of 16 years instead.
He is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was raised in the U.S. and converted to Islam somewhere around 2004.
He maintained a website with articles praising Osama bin Laden, describing Sept. 11 victims as legitimate targets and listing reasons to “nuke the USA,” prosecutors said in court papers. He repeatedly attacked his former wife for disagreeing with his militant beliefs about Islam, and his mother had thrown him out of her apartment over his views, prosecutors said.
In 2011, Pimentel “crossed the line from violent rhetoric on his Internet sites to building pipe bombs to be used against our citizens,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said when Pimentel was indicted.
Pimentel was recorded talking about assassinating a judge, killing returning soldiers and bombing a police station or the George Washington Bridge, officials said; he also talked about targeting Jews “and, in general, a civilian population whom he described, often, as collateral damage,” Assistant District Attorney Deborah Hickey told a judge Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, he was arrested in November 2011 for assembling bombs from clocks, Christmas tree lights, match-head scrapings and other stuff he found at discount and hardware stores.
But how did he go from being an online troll to being an actual terrorist? His lawyers have suggested that he would never have progressed from trolling to actually making pipe bombs if NYPD hadn’t sent a series of agents to engage with him.
One of the informants and an undercover officer got NOWHERE with him. Then, police sent ANOTHER informant, a fellow Hispanic Muslim convert who smoked weed with him while they talked about jihad, went with him to buy the bomb materials and even opened up his apartment to him to put them together.
“If you work on someone with professional witnesses, if you acquiesce to marijuana use, you wear people down,” Walsh said last month.
The defense have indicated that this trial is going to look at the NYPD’s methods of gathering intelligence on Muslims, an issue which has come under heavy scrutiny lately by sources such as the Associated Press. They showed how the NYPD infiltrated Muslim student groups on college campuses, put informants in mosques, and even monitored sermons as part of “a broad anti-terrorism effort”.
The poor dupe took the plea offer so that the possibility of life imprisonment was taken off the table. While admitting his guilt, “the question that will not be answered, at least not in a court of law, is who exactly is recruiting whom in this war, this so-called war on terror,” Walsh said outside court Wednesday.
The “entrapment defense” – a legitimate defense in the wake of dozens of instances such as this (where the FBI or an over-zealous police departments takes mentally-disturbed or otherwise pathetic individuals and encourages them to participate in terrorism) – faces a high legal burden, even though it’s so obvious to everyone that this is what it is. Apparently, it’s not enough to show that the police or their agents gave them the opportunity to break the law ; The defense has to convince the jurors that the police used methods that risk getting an innocent person to commit a crime.
Then-Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said federal authorities were apprised of the investigation, but circumstances ultimately compelled investigators to act fast and use state charges.
After Pimentel’s arrest, two officials from NYPD – on condition of anonymity – said that the FBI didn’t even want to take the case because the agents felt like he wasn’t inclined or able to act without the informant’s involvement. That means that the NYPD just wanted to get this guy so that they could say, “Hey, we caught a terrorist! Never mind that we got him high and totally set him up to make a bunch of bombs, and forget about the fact that the informant was facing marijuana charges of his own when we made him trap this guy like that, we caught a terrorist! Yippee!”.
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