5 of 6 Guilty In Sears Tower Bomb Plot

Trial was third for "Liberty City Six"

The U.S. Government finally got their men.

After two mistrials and a third trial lasting over two months, guilty verdicts have been handed down to five of the six men accused of plotting with al-Qaeda to start a anti-government war.

The group known as the Liberty City Six had many bomb targets, prosecutors told jurors, including Chicago's Sears Tower and FBI offices around the country.

On trial were Narseal Batiste, 35; Patrick Abraham, 29; Stanley Grant Phanor, 33; Rotschild Augustine, 25; Burson Augustin, 24, and Naudimar Herrera, 25.

The one man who was found innocent of all charges, Naudimar Herrera, cried for his friends after the verdicts were read. 

''God is real,'' he said outside the courtroom. "It's not right. They don't deserve this. All of us were supposed to be innocent. It's all B.S. They're going to come back and fight this. It ain't over."

The four terrorism-related conspiracy counts carry a combined 70-year prison sentence.

They were arrested in June 2006 on charges of plotting terrorism with an undercover FBI informant they believed was from al-Qaida. Defense attorneys said terrorist talk recorded on dozens of FBI tapes was not serious and the men wanted only money.

Ringleader Batiste was the only one convicted of all four terrorism-related conspiracy counts, including plotting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to wage war against the U.S. Batiste, who was on the vast majority of hundreds of FBI audio and video tapes, faces up to 70 years in prison.

Abraham was convicted on three counts and faces 50 years behind bars. Convicted on two counts and facing 30 years are Burson Augustin, Rotschild Augustine and Phanor.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard set sentencing for July 26 for the five convicted men, most of whom are Haitian or have Haitian ancestry. They lived in Miami's downtrodden inner-city neighborhood known as Liberty City.

The jury endured a two-month trial, then had to restart deliberations last week after one juror was excused for illness and a second was booted off the panel for being uncooperative. After the verdicts were read, court security officials escorted the jury — whose names were kept secret — out of the building before they could be interviewed.

The arrests were initially hailed as a major success by President George W. Bush's administration, an example of disrupting potential attacks at the earliest possible stages. But two previous juries struggled with the lack of solid evidence indicating the men took any steps to pull off such major mass assaults, such as possessing bomb-making manuals or building blueprints.

Prosecutors focused on the group's intent as captured on dozens of FBI audio and video recordings. Batiste is repeatedly heard espousing violence against the U.S. government and saying the men should start a "full ground war" that would "kill all the devils."

"I want to fight some jihad," Batiste says on one tape.

A key piece of evidence is an FBI video of the entire group pledging an oath of allegiance, or "bayat," to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in a March 16, 2006, ceremony led by an FBI informant posing as "Brother Mohammed" from al-Qaida.

But Batiste, who testified in all three trials, insisted he was only going along with Mohammed so he could obtain $50,000 or more for his struggling construction business and a nascent community outreach program. Batiste was leader of a Miami chapter of a sect known as the Moorish Science Temple, which combines elements of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and does not recognize the U.S. government's full authority.

Defense lawyers also claimed the case was an FBI setup driven by informants who manipulated the group.

"This is a manufactured crime," Batiste attorney Ana M. Jhones said earlier in the trial.

A seventh man who was acquitted after the first 2007 trial, 34-year-old Lyglenson Lemorin, is being deported to his native Haiti anyway. Less stringent immigration laws make it easier for U.S. officials to use the terrorism allegations against Lemorin.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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