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Feds Passed Up City’s Terror Case Twice

Monday, November 21, 2011

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly about alleged 'lone wolf' terrorist Jose Pimentelon. (Mario Tama/Getty)

The FBI declined to participate in the terror case against a Manhattan man at least twice because they felt it crossed the line into entrapment, a federal source confirmed to WNYC.

It is the second time this year the FBI and NYPD are at odds in a high-profile terror case.

The arrest of Jose Pimentel, 27, of Hamilton Heights, on terrorism-related charges for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb different locations was announced by the mayor late Sunday night, the result of an NYPD undercover investigation using a confidential informant and a bugged apartment.

Federal authorities were aware of the investigation, but "it was appropriate to proceed under state charges," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance late Sunday.

Absent from the rare late Sunday night press conference were federal agencies.

The mayor later said he saw absolutely no significance in the lack of federal participation in the latest case.

Former prosecutor and John Jay Professor Eugene O'Donnell said local officials would be foolish if they hesitated to pursue a legitimate terror case just because the feds would not sign off on it.

"Don't forget you live in a city that, prior to 9/11, we were sort of sanguine and assured that the federal government would protect us from being attacked," O'Donnell said in a phone interview. "And I think [Police] Commissioner [Ray] Kelly believes, and I think rightfully so,  that you can just simply rely on federal agencies."

But defense Attorney Alan Zegas, who has handled terrorism cases, said the decision by the federal government not to participate could provide potential ammunition for Pimentel's defense.
 
"It is extremely unusual for federal authorities not to take an interest in a terrorism case that has strength to it," Zegas said.

Vance's case is based on the work of the NYPD counter-terrorism program going back for a couple of years as well as the use of a confidential informant who reported back to the NYPD's on Pimentel.

Zegas, the attorney, said Pimentel's defense lawyer will put the confidential informant in the case under close scrutiny.

"Where a confidential informant is used for purposes of investigation it is incumbent upon the police to insure that the informant does not lure the person investigated into committing a crime that he otherwise did have the disposition to commit," Zegas said.

When asked about FBI reservations about the case, Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne responded in a statement "the suspect's words and actions speak for themselves."

The press spokesperson for Vance did not respond to a query about the FBI reservations, but did answer other queries related to the latest terror case.
 
In May, Vance brought the first state terrorism case under the post 9/11 law against two Queens suspects who allegedly planned to attack a synagogue.

The FBI had no public comment.
 
The state anti-terrorism statute was passed during Governor George Pataki's tenure and enables prosecutors to charge an individual with a terrorist conspiracy even if they acted alone with just the knowledge of a confidential government informant.

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Comments [9]

john from office

Mo, you cannot be entraped if your heart is not in it. Be glad these people are off the street. Last time I was offered a bomb I passed on the deal, my heart is not into it.

Nov. 22 2011 12:30 PM
Mo from U.S.A. : New York

I'm a Muslim born and raised in the States. I often wish I lived in a country that didn't employ the ugly tactic of entrapment, which often preys on the mentally ill, the disenfranchised poor, people of color, exploiting their various frustrations and planting in their heads the idea for a crime they would otherwise never have committed. Isn't entrapment the province of prostitution and drug cases? Even then, it's problematic. Why can't the NYPD prosecute actual crimes instead of having to invent them? Must we fabricate terrorists? I thought we were trying to reduce the number of terrorists. The NYPD should not have to resort to spying on muslims in their houses of worship and instilling fear into model citizens. Thanks in any case for covering the cracks in this story. The reporter did sound awfully "close" to police interests.

Nov. 22 2011 12:20 PM

We now have ample evidence — from numerous cases — that the FBI is routinely using techniques to encourage, even coerce, people into vaguely terrorist-related activities when those people otherwise might be nothing more than frustrated, angry, foolish, ill-informed . . . whatever, but not terrorists.

Contrast this with kid-glove treatment given American supporters of the IRA or Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League and Kach.

When the FBI says the case is too weak — given their lust for inducing 'terrorism' and suspending all semblance of due process or constitutional protection — then we should be deeply concerned.

Bob Hennelly would sound more like a journalist and less like a spokesman for the NYPD and Michael Bloomberg if he raised even _one_ of the criticisms raised by people like Glenn Greenwald, Bruce Ackerman, Jonathan Turley, David Cole, and _many_ others.

But the idea of actually _investigating_ an issue as opposed to just rehashing NYPD propaganda is alien to Hennelly and WNYC.

Nov. 22 2011 11:14 AM
Lori from Brooklyn

Oh, Please. This is Thanksgiving dinner, at Cafe' Bloomberg:
*Cooked-up Lone Wolf
*Red Herring
or
*Club Sandwich
with
*Fresh Pepper Spray
and
*Vintage Bloomberg Whine

Nov. 22 2011 11:10 AM

The FBI has come out and said in so many words now that they declined to prosecute because they considered it to be entrapment. Check the NYTimes.

Nov. 22 2011 10:47 AM
bernie from bklyn

and cyrus vance has to go...between these terrorist luring cases and the unprofessional, ridiculous handling of the strauss-kahn case, the case is there for him to step down. would morgenthau handle this the same way?

Nov. 22 2011 09:13 AM
bernie from bklyn

i used to have a tiny bit of respect for ray kelly but now it's gone. how many of these borderline entrapment-of-the-would-be-terrorist cases can they throw out there? and the timing is very suspicious as well....they are the boys who cried wolf and when something real does happen they are endangering the population of this city by creating skeptics in all of us with these jive cases.

Nov. 22 2011 09:07 AM
john from office

This is not entrapment and if it were, there was the desire to do the act. Sorry, another piece of dreck is off the street.

Nov. 22 2011 08:05 AM

Entrapment, pure and simple. Bloomberg and Kelly needed a distraction from their ongoing assaults and abuse of the OWS protesters. The latest was deciding that a public street is barred to the public because Bloomberg lives on it. They're violating people's civil rights every day. This poor guy was set up.

Nov. 22 2011 12:01 AM

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