Judge slams sting in Bronx synagogue case

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A Manhattan federal judge Wednesday lashed out at the government for using a sting to recruit four Newburgh men into a phony 2009 plot to blow up a Bronx synagogue as she sentenced the final defendant to 25 years in prison.

"I'm not proud of what the government did in this case," said U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, echoing comments she has made before as she gave LaGuerre Payen, 29, a Haitian, the same mandatory 25-year term she meted out to three co-defendants in June.

The four were convicted on several conspiracy counts in October. An FBI informant testified about a courtship lasting nearly a year that included financial incentives to lure plot leader James Cromitie and three others into agreeing. The jury rejected an entrapment defense.

"A government understandably zealous to protect its citizens created acts of terrorism out of the fantasies and bravado and bigotry of one man in particular and four men generally, and then made those fantasies come true," the judge said. "The government made them terrorists."

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While declining to sentence any of the defendants to a life term, McMahon told Payen -- who asked her if she considered him a terrorist -- that he deserved to do time.

"You were prepared to do a terrible thing, and you tried to do a terrible thing, and you tried to do it for a terrible reason," she said. "Maybe that doesn't make you a terrorist as I understand the term, but it makes you a criminal."

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