NEW YORK — Four men were convicted Monday on charges of planting what they believed were bombs outside synagogues in the Bronx and plotting to fire missiles at military planes.
The case was widely seen as an important test of the entrapment defense. It turned on the role of a government informer who spent several months secretly recording conversations with the men that included plans for mass violence and anti-Semitic comments, along with their moments of hesitation and concerns about hurting women or children.
Prosecutors said the plot revealed the dangers of homegrown terrorism, and that the informer, posing as a Pakistani terrorist, had presented the defendants with an opportunity to commit violence to which they were predisposed.
But defense lawyers said the case crossed the line into entrapment. They said the informer, on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, dangled offers of money and lured impoverished men with no ties to international terrorism into a plot they could never have dreamed up on their own.
In the end, the entrapment defense failed, as it has in every other terrorism trial since Sept. 11, 2001. About 2:30 p.m. Monday, the jury forewoman stood and began reading the verdicts with a wavering voice. “Guilty,” she said, 30 times, as the girlfriend of one of the defendants sobbed in the gallery.
The four men — Onta Williams, Laguerre Payen, James Cromitie and David Williams IV — will be sentenced March 24. Each could face life in prison.
Cromitie and David Williams were convicted on all eight counts of the indictment. Onta Williams and Payen, who met the informer late in the investigation, were found not guilty on one of the counts: attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States.
All the men were quiet as the verdicts were read. Cromitie’s lawyer, Vincent L. Briccetti, patted his client on the shoulder, while a few seats away, David Williams wore a grim smile. After the jury left the room, Williams’ aunt, Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, stood and yelled obscenities, saying there was no justice.
Court officers told her to leave.
In an interview a few hours after the verdict, one juror indicated that the deliberations, which lasted eight days, had been taxing.
“We considered that what they did was a serious crime. We also considered that they didn’t have that kind of background,” said the juror, who insisted that his name not be published. “We took our time. We dug deep.”