Behind the 'lone-wolf' terror case

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A file photo of Jose Pimentel in Manhattan

A file photo of Jose Pimentel in Manhattan Criminal Court on Nov. 20, 2011. Photo Credit: Jefferson Siegel

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Leonard Levitt Leonard Levitt

Leonard Levitt is the author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force."

What to make of the guilty plea by Jose Pimentel, a so-called "lone wolf" terrorist, after his attorney had said just two weeks before his trial that she planned a strong entrapment defense?

Pimentel, who will receive a 16-year prison term when he is sentenced later this month, is the third lone-wolf terrorism case that the NYPD brought to prosecutors, resulting in a conviction, without the assistance of FBI.

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On the surface, his plea appears to further vindicate former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly and his aggressive anti-terrorism-fighting stance.

As the Daily News chortled: "When the NYPD busted Jose Pimentel on a terrorism charge in 2011, FBI agents scoffed anonymously that the case did not meet their high standards. Who's laughing now?"

But these lone-wolf terrorism cases are more complicated than that. Each was announced with great public-relations fanfare. Each defendant turned out to be someone with either emotional or mental problems.

Matin Siraj was convicted by a Brooklyn jury of conspiring to blow up the Herald Square subway station on the eve of the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in 2004. He had an I.Q. considered borderline-retarded.

We learned during his trial that the police paid $100,000 to the informant who provided the evidence against him. His co-conspirator, who testified against him, had recently been released from a mental institution.

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Siraj's entrapment defense failed and he drew a 30-year sentence.

Last year, Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up a synagogue. The FBI had refused to take the case, concerned with the credibility of the NYPD's undercover who had developed the evidence against the two men.

Ferhani's attorneys claimed that he had been in and out of mental hospitals for years. They also said they would use an entrapment defense.

Instead, both Ferhani and Mamdouh pleaded guilty. Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years, Mamdouh to five.

A Dominican immigrant, whom the NYPD charged was an al-Qaeda adherent preparing to make bombs in his mother's Washington Heights apartment, Pimentel has been described as broke, unemployed and also beset with mental problems.

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Sources said the FBI refused to take the case because the bureau did not trust the NYPD informant who provided the evidence against him.

Pimentel's attorney, Lori Cohen, told this reporter just two weeks before his trial that she planned a strong entrapment defense.

Yet in the end, she accepted a plea. No doubt, like Ferhani's and Mamdouh's attorneys, she realized, as Siraj had learned the hard way, that when it comes to terrorism entrapment, New York City juries aren't interested.

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