A federal jury found two Guyanese men guilty on Monday of conspiring to attack Kennedy International Airport, concluding a monthlong trial that focused on their plan to blow up fuel tanks and set off a series of explosions along a pipeline that cuts through New York City.Both are to be sentenced in December and each faces up to life in prison.
The plot never advanced beyond the conceptual stage, and the planning sessions, some of which were recorded by a confidential informant, were alternately grandiose and absurd. Talk of destroying the American economy mixed with suggestions of a “ninja-style” attack.
As in some other recent terrorism cases, the threat as officials described it at the time of the arrests seemed to exceed the suspects’ capacity. Like most of those cases, though, it resulted in conviction.
The defendants, Russell M. Defreitas and Abdul Kadir, had been monitored from an early stage in the plot by the informant, who posed as a member of the group, which included a number of other participants.
The informant, Steven Francis, had recorded the men at the airport during surveillance missions and on international trips to secure financial and logistical support for the attack.
The recordings were used by federal prosecutors to portray Mr. Defreitas, 67, an immigrant who became a United States citizen and is a former cargo handler at the airport, as the “homegrown extremist” who conceived and drove the plot.
Mr. Kadir, 58, a prominent Guyanese politician who served in Parliament and as mayor of a major city, initially emerged as a secondary figure, one of several conspirators portrayed as facilitating the plot by providing advice and contacts. But in testifying in his own defense, he opened himself to questions about whether he had spied for Iran.
The case, with its international reach, high-profile target and unusual cast of characters, drew headlines when the men were arrested more than three years ago.
The United States attorney in Brooklyn at the time, Roslynn R. Mauskopf, said the planned attack had the potential to cause “unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction.”
But as time went on, more was revealed about the plot and the unlikelihood of its success (the fuel pipeline, for example, had safety mechanisms to prevent cascading explosions), as well as the level of government involvement (the informant had played a somewhat enabling role in pushing forward the plot).
The verdict came after five days of deliberations in a trial before Judge Dora L. Irizarry in United States District Court in Brooklyn. Both men showed no emotion as the decision was read.
Two other plotters have previously entered guilty pleas for their role in plotting the attacks. A fifth person Kareem Ibrahim, is awaiting trial, but is apparently in poor health.