By Eric Yun
The two men accused of plotting to destroy John F. Kennedy International Airport were convicted on numerous charges Monday in a Brooklyn Federal Court. They now face a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.
Russell Defreitas and Abdul Kadir planned a crippling attack on the airport that they boasted “even the Twin Towers can’t touch,” according to court documents. The target of the attack was the Buckeye Pipeline, an underground system that transports fuel and other petroleum products to JFK Airport.
Defreitas is a Guyanese immigrant and a former cargo worker at JFK Airport. Kadir is a Guyanese national who was once a member of the Guyanese parliament. They were arrested in June 2007 while they were still formulating their plot.
Abdul Nur, a third defendant, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and faces up to 15 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors claimed that, with the help of a FBI informant, they caught Defreitas plotting to destroy JFK Airport and attempting to recruit members of militant Muslim groups.
Defreitas was caught conducting video surveillance on the airport and boasting about the destruction his attack would cause.
Lawyers for the defendants argued that without the informant, there would have been no case. Defreitas was characterized as all talk but no action. It was only through the help of the informant, they argued, that Defreitas started moving forward with the plan. The informant purchased and taught Defreitas how to use a camera to conduct surveillance on the airport.
“I think [Defreitas] is a guy who likes to talk to make himself seem important,” said Mildred Whalen, Defreitas’s lawer, according to a report from the New York Daily News.
On the other hand, Kadir might have had the resources and connections necessary to pull off the attack. Federal prosecutors accused Kadir of being an Iranian spy.
Kadir’s lawyer, Kafahni Nkrumah, claimed his client was faced with an impossible task of fighting “the atmosphere of fear in the country” about Muslims and terrorism, according to a report in the New York Times.
Both men plan to appeal.