In a significant ruling, US District Judge Colleen McMahon has ordered the compassionate release of three men, part of the notorious “Newburgh Four” ensnared in a post-9/11 terrorism sting. Onta Williams, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen were described by McMahon as “hapless, easily manipulated, and penurious petty criminals” that had gotten caught up in a disingenuous scheme orchestrated by overzealous FBI agents and a dodgy informant. 
James Cromitie, the fourth individual, was not part of the leave request. As such, he has not been granted early release. He is expected to complete his prison sentence in 2030.
However, his defence attorney, Kerry Lawrence, is understood to be considering the pursuance of similar actions.
Lawrence optimistically stated,
“I’m confident he [Cromitie] would be entitled to relief for the same reasons articulated by Judge McMahon for the other defendants.” 
FBI radicalised the quartet
Sitting in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge McMahon found the men’s lengthy sentences “unduly harsh and unjust” while pointing to the FBI’s role in radicalising them in a plot to attack New York synagogues and National Guard planes. 
In her 28-page judgment, McMahon also cited concerns for the men’s mental health as well as alarm regarding the mishandling of the case by the FBI and other relevant authorities.
“The real lead conspirator was the United States”
The Newburgh Four were arrested in 2009 following the fake Bronx terrorism plot that had been concocted by the FBI to ensnare the impoverished Black men. Their sentences, originally set at a 25-year mandatory minimum, have now been reduced to time served plus 90 days.
The case, which involved the portrayal of the defendants as “extremely violent men” loyal to a Pakistani terrorist group, unfolded during a time of heightened concern over domestic terror threats. 
The media’s portrayal of this plot — coupled with the involvement of the government and law enforcement agencies — allowed a false narrative of a domestic Muslim threat to gain traction, potentially contributing to the rise of Islamophobia and the marginalisation of Muslims in the US and across the world.
Judge McMahon wrote in her decision,
“The 14-plus years that the moving defendants have already served for starring in the Government’s made-for-TV movie of May 20, 2008, is at the upper end of what the court would have imposed if it had been free to fashion a sentence that accurately reflected the nature and circumstance of the offence and the history and characteristics of the impoverished and susceptible criminals who committed it.” 
A case of entrapment & othering of Muslims
The defence lawyers raised valid questions of entrapment, arguing that the government-inspired creation was facilitated by an informant, Shaheed Hussain, who appeared to manipulate and entice the defendants into illegal activities.
Interestingly, this same informant was involved in another sting operation, which targeted an Albany pizza shop owner and an imam.
The defendants’ lawyer, Amith R. Gupta, said of the ruling,
“We are tremendously pleased that our clients are on their way home — even if it’s 14 years too late.” 
Gupta described the ruinous situation as,
“…destitute men entrapped for their race, religion, and working-class backgrounds by a government looking to spread fear of Muslims and justify bloated budgets.” 
Are there similar such cases around the world?
There remain concerns about the wider issue of such deliberate “sting operations”. For this reason, it is essential to investigate if similar situations exist beyond the US. The number of victims affected by these operations must also be quantified.
This case highlights the importance of examining the ramifications of such sting operations, the dubious role of law enforcement, and the impact on communities, particularly in the context of Islamophobia and the persecution of Muslims.
Judge McMahon’s decision has once again re-centred the spotlight on the ethos of the FBI, which, since 9/11, has focused on the pre-emptive targeting and prosecution of overwhelmingly innocent American Muslims.
- The FBI is actually creating US-based terrorists
- US Supreme Court rules Muslim men can sue FBI over ‘no-fly list’
- Calls for arrest as former FBI agent accused of torture visits London