A Brooklyn man was convicted Tuesday of committing an act of terrorism when he detonated a pipe bomb inside a subway corridor beneath Times Square almost a year ago.
Akayed Ullah was found guilty on all six counts in Manhattan federal court after jurors deliberated for 6½ hours over two days. The jury concluded that the 28-year-old provided material support to the ISIS terrorist group, used a weapon of mass destruction and carried out a terrorist attack against a mass transportation system, among other crimes.
He faces up to life in prison at his April 5 sentencing.
As the verdict was read, Ullah, an electrician, looked straight ahead until his guilt on the sixth and final charge — use of a destructive device during a violent crime — was read, which seemed to shock him. He then attempted to speak to U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.
“I want to say to you, with respect, I didn’t do [the attack] for ISIS,” Ullah said. “The government tried to put me in the group, which I do not support. I was angry with Donald Trump. He said he would bomb the Middle East,” he said
The judge interrupted, saying there would be time for Ullah to make a statement at his sentencing. But Ullah continued, saying, “I just want to make a statement.”
The judge responded, “Right now is not the right time for a statement.”
Ullah, a native of Bangladesh, built the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment, strapped it to his chest and detonated it during the morning rush hour in a passageway connecting two subway stations under 42nd Street, between Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Ullah and three others were injured but there were no fatalities in the Dec. 11 attack.
Last week, Ullah chose not to testify in his own defense and his public defenders called no witnesses. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
During five days of witness testimony and lawyers’ arguments, the prosecution contended that Ullah had grown to hate the United States, to which he moved in 2011, because of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
Police found 10 ISIS videos on Ullah’s laptop computer. They testified that he told them the bombing was meant to aid the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. One of the group’s slogans, “O America, Die In Your Rage,” was scrawled on two of Ullah’s passports found in his apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, according to testimony.
Tuesday, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, said, “Ullah’s conviction by a unanimous jury of New Yorkers falls on an Election Day, which fittingly underscores the core principles of American democracy and spirit: Americans engage in the political process through votes, not violence.”
NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill added that Ullah’s conviction “demonstrates clearly that New Yorkers will never be deterred by anyone who seeks to sow fear in our city or challenge our nation’s way of life. Violence will never have a place in any discussion in a democratic society.”
Ullah’s public defenders, Amy Gallicchio and Julia Gatto, declined to comment after the verdict.
Outside the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, jurors said their deliberations were intense and emotional at times, but all agreed that Ullah tried to kill himself by detonating a pipe bomb filled with screws, matchheads, sugar, Christmas lights, wires and a 9-volt battery.
However, at least one juror said she wasn’t totally convinced that Ullah acted in aid of ISIS on Dec. 11.
“He did it. The big question was why, and he didn’t testify,” said juror Linda Artis, 38, a seasonal worker for the New York City Department of Parks. “I was on the fence for a long time.”
She said she was the lone holdout among the 12 jurors, reluctant to convict Ullah of providing material support to ISIS.
“I don’t think he did it for them,” said Artis, of Manhattan, referring to ISIS. “I think he did it for himself.” She added that extreme anger doesn’t equate to becoming an ISIS member.
Artis also confirmed that at one point on Tuesday, deliberations among the eight women and four men became heated, and she and several other jurors requested a 15-minute break, which the judge granted.
“We need brain space, a cigarette + fresh air. PLEASE!”, the jurors wrote in a note to the judge.
Later, Artis said, “I needed to walk away from the situation . . . I needed a cigarette.” An hour later, she agreed to vote with the others to convict Ullah after rereading federal law, which she called “too vague” in defining what constitutes a terrorist attack.
Another juror, a Bronx man who declined to give his name, said he was “relieved” the case was over and felt justice was achieved.
“The evidence was really there — a lot of it,” the juror said. “The defendant really agreed and confessed, so we took it upon that.” With Nicole Fuller
NYC PIPE BOMB ATTACK AT-A-GLANCE
Time: Dec. 11, 2017 at 7:20 AM
Location: Subway passageway between two stations beneath Times Square
Attacker: Akayed Ullah, now 28, a Bangladeshi-born immigrant living in Brooklyn with some family since 2011. He worked as an electrician.
Injuries: Four victims, including Ullah. No fatalities
Motive: Ullah, in a police interview, said he wanted to help the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
The Bomb: A homemade device consisting of a galvanized pipe filled with ground-up match heads, sugar, screws, Christmas lights, wires and a 9-volt battery.
Verdict: A jury convicted Ullah on all six counts of the federal indictment against him. He faces life in prison.
SOURCES: Indictment, court testimony
— Compiled by James T. Madore