Updated 06/03/2009 01:57 PM
Four Men Accused In Bronx Terror Plot Plead Not Guilty
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Four men who authorities say plotted to bomb a Bronx synagogue and Jewish center
pled not guilty at the arraignment this morning in White Plains.
An eight-count indictment handed up yesterday charges James Cromitie, 42, David Williams, 28, Onta Williams, 32, and LaGuerre Payen, 27, with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction among other charges.
The four are also accused of trying to use anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down United States military planes at the Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh and cause the death of U.S. officers and employees.
During today's arraignment, Payen's attorney claimed that in two separate cases he may have been tricked into pleading guilty because of a lack of language ability. The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case argued that Payen understands an adequate amount of English.
The four were arrested last month after Cromitie allegedly was found leaving a car loaded with what he thought was explosives in front of a Jewish house of worship in Riverdale. All four men are accused of scouting and taking pictures of the location.
According to investigators, a Joint Terrorism Taskforce investigated the men for more than a year prior to their arrests.
Relatives and friends of the suspects said the men are not capable of planning such attacks and were tricked into a government-hatched plot organized by an informant for the FBI. They claim the informant infiltrated a mosque in Newburgh in order to earn their trust.
Supporters of the suspects say the men did not belong to that particular mosque.
They claim the informant even went as far to offer to pay for a liver transplant for the brother of one of the suspects.
Government investigators say an FBI informant sold the fake explosives to the men to help bring down the plot.
They are due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Friday.
All four face up to life in prison if convicted.