16 years in prison for man in NYC terror bomb plot

March 25, 2014

 

An al-Qaida sympathizer who admitted trying to build pipe bombs to carry out a homegrown terror campaign was sentenced Tuesday to 16 years in prison, capping a case authorities called an illustration of the threat of lone, local would-be terrorists but his lawyers portrayed as an example of police entrapment.

Jose Pimentel, his hands shackled and enclosed in mitts, declined to speak as he was sentenced in the rare state-level terror case; most are federal. City Department of Correction representatives had no immediate information on what the mitts were for.

Pimentel, 29, last month admitted he tried to fashion a pipe bomb out of household items in an informant’s basement in November 2011 and aspired to use it to “try to undermine public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” He had been recorded brainstorming about attacks ranging from killing returning soldiers to blowing up a police station to bombing the George Washington Bridge, authorities said.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said the case demonstrated the growing threat “from radicalized local actors” and local authorities’ ability to stem it.

Pimentel, a Dominican native, grew up in the United States, converted to Islam around 2004 and became an outspoken extremist who also went by Muhammad Yusuf, authorities said. He maintained a website with articles lauding Osama bin Laden, saying it was valid to target those killed on Sept. 11 and giving reasons to “nuke the USA,” and he repeatedly clashed with relatives over his militant views, prosecutors said in court papers.

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/16-years-in-prison-for-man-in-nyc-terror-bomb-plot/2014/03/25/67691086-b47c-11e3-bab2-b9602293021d_story.html

DA: Close court for part of NYC terror-plot trial

January 29, 2014

 

Prosecutors want to keep testimony by three key witnesses — an undercover police officer and two informants — out of public view at the trial of a man charged with plotting terror attacks with homemade bombs, a case in which police tactics are likely to become a central issue.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office wants the three to testify anonymously and in a closed courtroom at Jose Pimentel’s trial, set to start next month. A judge didn’t immediately rule on the issue at a hearing Wednesday, but he noted that there’s a high legal bar for closing courtrooms.

Prosecutors say the undercover officer and informants could be imperiled if their identities became public. But Pimentel’s lawyers say the court should stay open so the public gets a full picture of how police dealt with him during a two-year investigation.
Pimentel, a Dominican-born al-Qaida sympathizer also known as Muhammad Yusuf, maintained a website advocating jihad, or holy war, against the United States, police and prosecutors said.

He talked with one of the informants about killing soldiers, assassinating a judge or bombing police stations or the George Washington Bridge, prosecutors said. He was arrested while making a pipe bomb in the informant’s apartment in November 2011, authorities said.
American law strongly favors public trials, but courts have been closed to protect witnesses’ safety, shield classified government information, avoid traumatizing child witnesses or keep an undercover agent’s identity under wraps so he or she can continue covert work.

“Courts have to be very careful when they do this,” Pace Law School professor Bennett L. Gershman said, because appellate judges have sometimes reversed convictions when they found courtrooms were wrongly closed. In general, a judge has to establish that there’s a compelling reason to keep the public out and consider whether less restrictive alternatives would work.

Most terrorism cases are federal, but Pimentel was charged under a rarely used state terrorism law passed shortly after the Sept. 11attacks. The 29-year-old could face up to life in prison if convicted.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/da-close-court-for-part-of-nyc-terror-plot-trial/2014/01/29/6df2ac54-8917-11e3-a760-a86415d0944d_story.html

NYC schools could close to observe Muslim holidays

October 17, 2013

 

The city’s two mayoral candidates both support adding Eid celebrations to list of days schools are closed.

After a new mayor takes office in New York City next year, schoolchildren could very well have an additional two days off in observance of Muslim holidays. Both mayoral candidates, Democrat Bill de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota, say they support the idea. If such a measure were to come to pass, the New York City school district would be the largest in the United States to grant the days off.

De Blasio said during a campaign rally with local Muslims on Wednesday that observing Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, a celebration during hajj, would help to recognize the city’s large Muslim population and wouldn’t take away from the education kids get.

“A child who has an exam on a day that right now is one of the Eid holidays, they’re either respecting their religious obligation or they’re doing what their education requires of them,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Daily News. “They can’t do both under our current system.”

About 13 percent of the city’s schoolchildren are Muslims, de Blasio added.

His Republican rival, former city transit chief Joe Lhota, also said that adding the holidays would be a good idea. Students would come to school on two other days to make up for the holidays, he said.

“We have a growing Muslim community in the city of New York and their religion needs to be respected as all other religions are respected,” Lhota said Wednesday, according to the Daily News.

Outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the idea. He has said that observing the holidays would take away from students’ education and open the door to similar requests from other religious and ethnic groups.

 

Al-Jazeera America: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/10/17/new-york-schoolscouldgetmuslimholidays.html

NYC man sentenced to 13 years for lying about his plans to join al-Qaida

NEW YORK — An American citizen was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday for lying to the FBI about his attempts to wage violent jihad against U.S. forces by joining the Taliban or al-Qaida.

Prosecutors in federal court in Brooklyn had sought the maximum 21 years behind bars for Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, arguing that he was following a proven formula of other would-be, homegrown terrorists who succeeded in aligning themselves with extremist groups by traveling to Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

 

 

But U.S. District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano imposed the lesser term after suggesting the defendant proved too immature and inept to pull it off.

Shehadeh, 23, appeared in court with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. He spoke only briefly, telling the judge a letter he had written asking for leniency expressed his position.

His outlook on jihad “has matured over time,” he wrote. “Jihad and terrorism are not synonymous, they are conflicting in my view.” The letter portrayed a failed attempt to get to Pakistan as “an impulsive move” by a misguided young man.

NYC defends Muslim surveillance in court; plaintiffs say suspicions were based on innuendo

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department had legitimate reasons to put specific mosques and Muslim worshippers under surveillance as part of its counterterrorism efforts, a city lawyer said Thursday at the first court date in a civil rights lawsuit accusing the NYPD of religious profiling.

Peter Farrell of the city Law Department argued that before the case goes forward, the city should be allowed to present evidence specific to the six plaintiffs that he said would prove police were acting with legitimate law enforcement purposes. If the judge agrees, “then this case is over,” he said.

An American Civil Liberties Union attorney, Hina Shamsi, countered that her clients already had sufficient legal standing to sue the city and that the NYPD should be ordered to begin turning over sensitive reports and documents detailing the alleged spying on Muslims.

In a letter filed on Tuesday, city lawyers outlined evidence they say shows that a security team at a mosque named as a plaintiff in the suit sponsored survival training outings and referred to team members as “jihad warriors.” Another plaintiff mosque was frequented by a man convicted earlier this year of lying to the FBI about plans to team up with the Taliban or al-Qaida, the letter said.

The NYPD didn’t target particular mosques “simply because the attendees were Muslim,” the letter said. “Rather, the NYPD followed leads suggesting that certain individuals in certain mosques may be engaging in criminal and possibly terrorist activity.”

In response, the ACLU accused the city of vilifying its clients “through inflammatory and insinuation and innuendo, suggesting (they) are worthy of criminal investigation on the basis of First Amendment-protected speech, activities or attenuated — and unwitting — association alone.”

It added: “This strategy is a deliberate distraction at best. At worst, it verges on the very type of discriminatory and meritless profiling at the heart of this case.”

NYC Mayoral Candidate, Lhota, Courts Muslim Votes

Prayer mats, pointing in the direction of Mecca, lined a pedestrian plaza and an entire block on 73rd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, early on Thursday to mark the end of a month of fasting for Muslims and the beginning of a three-day feast that is traditionally spent in the company of close family and friends. Colored flag streamers hung along the sides of the streets, recycled boxes were circulated through the crowd to collect donations and hundreds of men took their shoes off and stood side by side to pray.

 

It was the usual scene — except for an unusual visitor this year.

 

Joseph J. Lhota, one of the Republican candidates for mayor, appeared before the sizable gathering, mostly South Asian and Muslim people, to introduce himself. While many of the Democratic candidates have made themselves known to the Muslim community in Jackson Heights and throughout other parts of the city, the Republican candidates have remained largely invisible.

 

But Mr. Lhota, addressing a congregation that had gathered in Diversity Plaza, said, “I really appreciate everything that the Muslim community brings to New York.

“I want to be your mayor,” he added. “I want to be the mayor of all New Yorkers.”

Several Democratic candidates for mayor have courted New York’s growing Muslim population by making specific promises. John C. Liu, currently the city comptroller, said he believed that surveillance of Muslim institutions by the Police Department was unconstitutional. Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, promised to add two Muslim holidays to the school calendar. Anthony D. Weiner, a former member of Congress, pointed out that he was married to a Muslim woman.

 

By contrast, Mr. Lhota, a former chief of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority who previously served as a deputy mayor in the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, kept his message short and broad.

 

“It is very important,” he said, “that we continue to make sure that New York City is the city of opportunity and a place where people from all over the world want to come to be able to fulfill their American dream.”

 

More provocative ads go up in NYC subways from group that equated Muslims with ‘savages’

NEW YORK — The group that equated Muslim radicals with savages in advertisements last year has put up another set of provocative ads in dozens of New York City subway stations.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative purchased space next to 228 clocks in 39 stations for ads with an image of the burning World Trade Center and a quote attributed to the Quran saying: “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.”

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the ads went up Monday and will run for a month.

The same group paid for ads to be displayed in 10 stations in September. Those ads implied enemies of Israel are “savages.”

The MTA also sold space last year to competing advertisements that urged tolerance.

Suspect in death of man shoved in front of NYC subway train once arrested for random assault

NEW YORK — The family of a woman accused of shoving a man to his death in front of a subway train called police several times in the past five years because she had not been taking prescribed medication and was difficult to deal with, authorities said Monday.

 

Erika Menendez, 31, was being held without bail on a murder charge in the death of Sunando Sen. She told police she pushed the 46-year-old India native because she thought he was Muslim, and she hates them, according to prosecutors.

 

They had never met before she suddenly shoved him off the subway platform because she “thought it would be cool,” prosecutors said. The victim was Hindu, not Muslim.

It wasn’t clear whether Menendez had a diagnosed mental condition. But her previous arrests and legal troubles paint a portrait of a troubled woman.

 

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly would not say what medication she was taking or whether she had a psychiatric history. Authorities were called to her home five times since 2005 on reports of an emotionally disturbed person.

 

In one instance, police said, she threw a radio at the responding officers.

Menendez was spotted by a passer-by who called 911 and said she resembled the wanted suspect. When she was arrested, she told police she shoved Sen because she blamed Muslims and Hindus for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and had been “beating them up” ever since, according to authorities. She said she thought Sen was Muslim.

 

NYC criminal justice college president says he is troubled by NYPD monitoring of campus group

NEW YORK — The president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice said he is “deeply troubled” about reports that the New York Police Department sent a paid informant to spy on the school’s club for Muslim students.

School President Jeremy Travis sent a letter to students and professors Thursday reacting to an Associated Press report on the 19-year-old informant, Shamiur Rahman, who said he quit working for the NYPD at the end of the summer after growing uncomfortable with the job.

Rahman said his assignments included attending lectures hosted by John Jay’s Muslim Student Association, photographing people attending its events, and identifying its members and leaders.

In the letter, Travis said he was unaware of the spying, and expressed concerns about using informants for surveillance where there was no evidence of a crime.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has defended the department’s intelligence-gathering operation as necessary to root out any potential terrorist plots.

Provocative ads promoting defeat of ‘savage’ jihad appear in NYC subways, draw criticism

NEW YORK — Provocative advertisements equating Muslim radicals with savages appeared in New York City subways on Monday, drawing immediate criticism from some riders.

“It’s a terrible idea,” said Colby Richardson at a subway station in midtown Manhattan. “It’s going to spark controversy obviously when you deem one side savages and the other side civilized. “

The ads — reading, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” — went up in 10 stations across Manhattan after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site.

Many commuters in New York City were uncomfortable with a new series of subway ads that equate Muslim radicals with savages. The MTA was forced to put up the ads in the subway system after a lawsuit by anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York initially refused to run blogger Pamela Geller’s ad, saying it was “demeaning.” But a federal judge ruled in July that it is protected speech under the First Amendment.