February 20, 2014
Five days before his trial was to start, a Manhattan man accused of planning to wage a personal jihad against the United States with pipe bombs pleaded guilty on Wednesday to reduced charges in a deal with prosecutors.
The man, Jose Pimentel, was facing state terrorism charges for building an inexpensive pipe bomb in an informer’s apartment, and starting to work on two others, according to an indictment. Prosecutors said they had evidence that he meant to detonate bombs in New York City in retaliation for the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Pimentel appeared in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to plead guilty to a single count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism. As part of the plea deal, he agreed to serve 16 years in prison and five years of probation when he is sentenced on March 25; he had faced 15 years to life in prison under the original charges of weapons possession and conspiracy as crimes of terrorism.
Mr. Pimentel’s lawyers had contended that their client was entrapped by the police. They describe him as a down-on-his-luck young man who was easily enticed by the informer to build bombs after being plied for months with free food and marijuana.
Mr. Pimentel, a Dominican native who converted to Islam, was arrested in November 2011 after a lengthy investigation. The arrest stemmed from a sting operation by the Police Department’s Intelligence Division. The police used an undercover officer, two confidential informers and hundreds of hours of recorded conversations.
The case in state court was unusual because the federal authorities typically handle terrorism prosecutions. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had monitored Mr. Pimentel, decided not to pursue charges against him, and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., took on the task.
No evidence has been produced in court that Mr. Pimentel had co-conspirators or was taking instructions from terrorist organizations abroad. He has been described as a lone wolf.
At a news conference, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said Mr. Pimentel was typical of the homegrown, self-made terrorist that organizations like Al Qaeda had tried to inspire through jihadist websites and anti-Western propaganda. “This young man really was self-radicalized,” Mr. Bratton said.
Mr. Pimentel is the third person to be charged under New York’s antiterrorism law, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Though the statute was never employed under the previous Manhattan district attorney, Mr. Vance has now used it twice.
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