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5 Florida men get prison for plotting terrorist attacks with al Qaeda

Narseal Batiste, 35, who was convicted on all four conspiracy charges, got the longest sentence.
Narseal Batiste, 35, who was convicted on all four conspiracy charges, got the longest sentence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Trial was the third for defendants, homeless men initially known as "Liberty City 7"
  • Seven suspects were arrested in June 2006; five were convicted in May
  • Suspected ringleader, Narseal Batiste, 35, was sentenced to 13½ years
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Miami, Florida (CNN) -- Five Florida men convicted of plotting terrorist acts with al Qaeda were sentenced Friday to long prison terms, the Department of Justice announced.

Seven suspects were arrested in June 2006 for allegedly conspiring to blow up buildings, including the 110-story Sears Tower, the nation's tallest building, in Chicago, Illinois; the FBI's Miami office and others.

Five were convicted in May, their third trial after juries failed to reach a verdict on two previous attempts. The sixth was found not guilty. A seventh was found not guilty earlier.

The suspected ringleader, Narseal Batiste, 35, was sentenced to 13½ years in prison plus 35 years of supervision after his release.

He was the only defendant found guilty earlier this year of all four conspiracy charges, including conspiring to incite a rebellion against the United States, supplying materials to a terror organization and terrorists, and conspiring to destroy buildings with explosives.

Another defendant, Patrick Abraham, 30, was sentenced to 9 years, 4-and-a-half months in prison, to be followed by 15 years of supervision. He was convicted of two counts involving supplying materials to terrorists and terror groups, and of conspiring to destroy buildings with explosives.

Stanley Grant Phanor, 34, Burson Augustin, 24, and Rotschild Augustine, 26, were convicted of supplying materials to terrorists but acquitted of the other charges.

Phanor got eight years, Augustin got six and Augustine seven. All will be supervised for 10 to 15 years after release.

The sixth defendant, Naudimer Herrera, 25, was acquitted on all four counts.

The prosecution of the men "helped make our community safer by rooting out nascent terrorists before they could carry out their threats," Acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman of the Southern District of Florida said in a statement announcing the sentences Friday.

Lawyers for two of the men said they intended to appeal when the verdict was announced in May.

The terror trial in Miami was the third held for the defendants, a group of homeless men initially known as the "Liberty City 7," for the Miami neighborhood where authorities say they operated.

In the first trial, a mistrial was declared after nine days of deliberations in December 2007, although a seventh defendant was acquitted. The jury in the second trial deadlocked in April 2008 after deliberating for 13 days.

The first two juries could not determine whether the defendants were seriously plotting with al Qaeda -- as the prosecutors alleged -- or if they were simply struggling young men who were looking to con an FBI informant out of money, as the defense alleged.

Authorities have said the men did not have explosives or weapons and that their plans appeared "more aspirational than operational." The investigation began after an Arabic speaker contacted authorities and said Batiste approached him about waging "jihad" in the United States.

Investigators then planted among the group an undercover informant, who claimed to be an al Qaeda member who helped plan the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. A federal raid on the group's Liberty City warehouse in 2006 revealed a receipt for purchase of a gun, as well as ammunition, marijuana, two credit cards, 10 euros, three machetes, two swords, an ax, uniforms and a flight suit.

On a surveillance videotape played during trial, Batiste could be heard saying he was "very grateful" to Osama bin Laden and "loved" the al Qaeda leader's work. He also said he respected bin Laden and wanted to meet him someday.

In other excerpts, Batiste told the informant his people needed training, and they discussed going to Chicago because the city has underground trains and tunnels.

CNN's John Couwels contributed to this report.