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Judge orders release of ‘Newburgh Four’ defendant, blasts FBI’s role in terrorism sting

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U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, based in New York, has granted compassionate release to James Cromitie, a 58-year-old man convicted in a post-9/11 terrorism sting known as the ‘Newburgh Four.’ This decision follows her earlier release of Cromitie’s three co-defendants, highlighting concerns over the FBI’s utilization of an “unsavory” informant in fabricating a conspiracy involving the planned destruction of New York synagogues and the shooting down of National Guard planes.

Having served 15 years of his 25-year minimum sentence, Cromitie’s sentence was reduced to time served plus an additional 90 days. The Newburgh Four, hailing from a small river city north of New York, were convicted in 2010 on terrorism charges related to a plot that, critics argue, was manufactured by the FBI. Prosecutors alleged the group scouted targets and attempted to secure explosives and a surface-to-air missile, all provided by the FBI.

In a scathing rebuke, Judge McMahon asserted that the FBI concocted the conspiracy and selected targets. She emphasized that Cromitie and his co-defendants lacked the capability to devise such a crime independently. The judge questioned the notion of Cromitie being a ‘leader,’ citing his documented ineptitude. The use of an FBI informant, Shaheed Hussain, was criticized, with McMahon describing him as “most unsavory” and a “villain” tasked with targeting vulnerable individuals for fabricated crimes in exchange for cash.

Shaheed Hussain, the informant, had previously worked with the FBI on another sting involving an Albany pizza shop owner and an imam. Both individuals were convicted of money laundering and conspiring to aid a terrorist group, claiming they were tricked. The informant attracted renewed attention in 2018 following a limo crash in rural Schoharie, New York, which claimed 20 lives. Hussain owned the limo company, operated by his son, Nauman Hussain, who was convicted of manslaughter last year.

James Cromitie’s attorney, Kerry Lawrence, expressed satisfaction at the release but maintained that his client’s conviction resulted from government entrapment. Lawrence emphasized the extent of manipulation by the government informant, Shaheed Hussain, in Cromitie’s case. Attempts to seek comments from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York City were made without success at the time of reporting.

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