Four ex-convicts accused of plotting to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes apparently will claim they were lured into the conspiracy with gifts including cash and fried chicken.
Defense lawyers demanded Thursday in federal court that prosecutors turn over evidence of any payments, promises or other inducements offered by an informant who infiltrated the group.
The four men are accused of plotting to destroy two synagogues in the heavily Jewish Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down planes at an Air National Guard base about 50 miles north of New York City. Because the FBI was in on the plot, the bombs and missiles the men obtained were useless, prosecutors say.
The men have pleaded not guilty and are being held without bail. One of them is a petty criminal who spent a day in 2002 snatching purses and shooting at people with an airgun, while three have histories of drug convictions.
Theodore Green, attorney for defendant David Williams, 28, mentioned the entrapment defense, which generally claims that a person was enticed to do something illegal that he would not otherwise have done.
Among the enticements the defense lawyers said they had already heard about were checks of up to $25,000, gifts to the men's families and "some kind of charge account" at a Crown fried chicken store in Newburgh, where the four men live.
"My client could go there and not pay," said lawyer Marilyn Reader, who is defending Laguerre Payen, 27.
Susanne Brody, the lawyer for Onta Williams, 32, said that when viewing government surveillance video, there was hardly a scene "where you don't see eating going on." The informant paid for those meals, she asserted, and the defense wants documentation.
Green said the defense also wants to know whether the informant was acting on his own or following orders when he offered gifts — and who gave the orders. He also demanded to know "what instructions were given the cooperating witness about entrapment and any limits imposed on him."
The defense also is seeking information about any conversations the informant had "advocating violence or holding extremist views," Green said.
Prosecutor David Leibowitz said he had already turned over all recorded evidence of inducements, but Green said the defense also wants the government to share any knowledge, recorded or not, of other offers.
Leibowitz said he would inquire about "whether there was a Crown Chicken relationship."
Ties to mosque
Two of the defendants, Payen and James Cromitie, 55, had spent time at a mosque in Newburgh. Green said the defense had information that the informant had approached "one or more other mosques in the Hudson Valley trying to get membership lists."
Judge Colleen McMahon said the defense could file motions if it disagreed with the prosecution about what evidence has to be turned over. She scheduled another status conference for Dec. 4 and said jury selection would begin June 14.
About a dozen supporters of the defendants were in the courtroom, most of them friends or relatives of David Williams, who is not related to Onta Williams.
Alicia McWilliams, David Williams' aunt, said the four men could not have organized a sophisticated plot without direction.
"They couldn't do a barbecue," she said.