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Opening statements to begin in synagogue bomb plot trial

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Prosecutors say the men were "eager to bring death to Jews"
  • The plot is uncovered after a yearlong investigation
  • Three of the suspects are American; the fourth is Haitian
  • They are arrested after they planted what they thought were explosives

New York (CNN) -- Opening statements are expected to begin this week in the trial of four men accused of trying to bomb New York synagogues and fire surface-to-air missiles at U.S. military planes.

The four men are accused by prosecutors of being "eager to bring death to Jews."

Prosecutors say they plotted to detonate explosives near two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx in May 2009 and also sought to fire missiles at planes at an Air National Guard base.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly described the plot as homegrown, with no known links to any foreign or domestic groups.

The plot was uncovered in a yearlong investigation involving an FBI informant, authorities said.

Three of the suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams -- are U.S. citizens. The fourth, Laguerre Payen, is Haitian.

According to New York and federal authorities, an FBI informant met with Cromitie in June 2008 in Newburgh, New York.

During that meeting Cromitie said his parents lived in Afghanistan, he was angry about the U.S. war there, and he had an interest in "doing something to America."

The four suspects began meeting and plotting to bomb the synagogues with the informant at a home equipped with concealed video and audio equipment, authorities said.

The suspects also conducted surveillance, including photographs, of an Air National Guard base where they wanted to blow up planes, authorities said. The informant provided the men with a surface-to-air guided missile and C-4 plastic explosives, none of which could actually be used.

"No one was at risk," said Kelly, the police commissioner, describing the explosive devices as duds created to dupe the suspects.

Kelly said that after the suspects planted the 37-pound devices in two cars, a waiting contingent of officers pulled an 18-wheeler across the road to block the suspects' vehicle and then smashed their windows to apprehend them without a struggle.