nationalsecuritylaw United States v. Defreitas (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 17, 2011) (life sentence)

* United States v. Defreitas (E.D.N.Y. Feb. 17, 2011) (life sentence)

From DOJ’s press release:

BROOKLYN, NY – Russell Defreitas, 67, was sentenced earlier today to life in prison by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry for conspiring to commit a terrorist attack at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, N.Y., by exploding fuel tanks and the fuel pipeline under the airport. Defreitas and his co-conspirators believed their attack would cause extensive damage to the airport and to the New York economy, as well as the loss of numerous lives.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The case was investigated by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in New York.

A federal jury convicted Russell Defreitas and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir in July 2010 after a 9-week trial. The evidence at trial established that Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, originated the idea to attack JFK Airport, and its fuel tanks and pipelines by drawing on his prior experience working at the airport as a cargo handler.

In 2006 and 2007, Defreitas recruited Kadir and others to join the plot during multiple trips to Guyana and Trinidad. Between trips, Defreitas engaged in video surveillance of JFK Airport and transported the footage back to Guyana to show Kadir and their co-conspirators. Kadir, a trained engineer with connections to militant groups in Iran and Venezuela, provided the conspirators with links to individuals with terrorist experience, advice on explosive materials and a bank account through which to finance the terrorist attack.

On Dec. 15, 2010, Judge Irizarry sentenced Abdul Kadir to life in prison. A third defendant, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty before trial to supporting the plot and was sentenced to 15 years on Jan. 13, 2011. A fourth member of the plot, Kareem Ibrahim, faces trial on the same charges as Defreitas and Kadir.

According to the trial evidence, Defreitas and his fellow plot members attempted to enlist support from prominent international terrorist groups and leaders, including Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat Al Muslimeen, and Adnan El Shukrijumah, an al-Qaeda leader, as well as the Iranian revolutionary leadership. During cross examination at trial, Kadir, a former member of the Guyanese parliament, admitted that he regularly passed information to Iranian authorities about sensitive topics, including the Guyanese military, and believed himself bound to follow fatwas from Iranian religious leaders.

On June 1, 2007, Defreitas was arrested in New York, and Kadir was arrested in Trinidad aboard a plane headed to Venezuela, en route to Iran. He was subsequently extradited to the United States.

Defreitas was convicted of the following specific charges: conspiracy to attack a public transportation system, conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive, conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft materials, conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities and conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility.

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