Before a federal court room this week, US Attorney Neil MacBride was rather blunt about what actions a former Blackwater security guard undertook while working in Afghanistan in 2009.
"Justin Cannon opened fire with an AK-47 at the rear of a retreating vehicle and took the life of an innocent Afghan," is all he needed to say. For that unjust murder, however, Cannon was handed down a sentence yesterday of only 30 months in jail.
If that cold blooded killing is costing Cannon barely two years behind bars, you would think that the US court nowadays would be a bit more lenient in cases where, say, no one was harmed. On the contrary, three of the men linked to the Newburgh 4 plot to allegedly blow up a New York City synagogue were senteced to 25 years in prison today.
James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams have been convicted of plotting to blow up worship houses in the Bronx and shoot down planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base. Defense attorneys, however, argued that the three men are the victims of an immense entrapment perpetrated by the FBI.
The defense claims that an FBI informant posed as a recruiter for a terrorist organization and offered the men special Stinger missiles to take down planes at Stewart. Attorneys attest that the introduction of Stingers in the case calls for a minimum sentence of 25 years, the highest minimum the three men face out of all eight of the charges brought against them.
"The government, not the defendants, chose Stewart Air Force base, and the government, not the defendants, introduced and supplied the missiles," writes one of the attorneys for the defense.
Their legal team also attests that Shahed Hussain worked with the FBI and purposely picked the men up and drove them into Connecticut to obtain weapons to be used in the attacks. FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller has explicitly stated during the trial that they picked the Connecticut warehouse solely to get the Newburgh 4 to cross state lines.
"The entire trip to Connecticut and the missiles were introduced by the government for the singular purpose of securing a 25-year minimum sentence," say defense attorneys.
Meanwhile, 200 miles from that New York City courtroom, Cannon’s “reckless behavior,” as US Attorney MacBride calls it, will have him back on the streets in mere months. Cannon’s killing was in cold blood. And the Newburgh 4? They are guilty of falling for a trick enacted by their own government.
Cannon had also been charged with fatally shooting an Afghan passerby while overseas while the man walked his dog. Along with another Blackwater guard, Cannon was acquitted of charges stemming from that case.
Speaking to RT hours after the sentencing of the three men today, Alicia McWilliams-McCollum, the aunt of ones of the convicted men, says it is common knowledge that the government used ex-offenders to manufacture a plot.
"Who holds the government accountable?" she asks. "We know it's government misconduct." The sentencing, she says, is just another example of "a miscarriage of justice."
In the meantime, she urges people to speak out on the matter. "Nobody wants the truth," she says, and urges that "the community needs to come out"