Six South Florida men being tried a third time on terrorism charges pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and wanted to wage war against the United States, including blowing up Chicago’s Sears Tower, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Thursday.
The so-called “Liberty City Six” were again facing four terrorism-related charges each after two previous trials ended in hung juries. Closing arguments will continue Friday, with the jury beginning to deliberate on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Arango spent two hours describing the actions of the six defendants as “wanting to kill all the devils we can.” Arango said they spoke of following the destruction of the Sears Tower with “shooting all the survivors they saw.”
She urged the jury to convict the men on all four counts against them that could put them in prison for the rest of their lives.
The defense said the men were manipulated victims of the FBI and two government informants paid tax free to induce the defendants to pledge allegiance to al-Qaida and plan terrorist acts to kill millions. Ana Jhones, the lawyer for the alleged ringleader, Narseal Baptiste, characterized one informant as the “thug” and the other the “master manipulator.”
She spoke for more than four hours and described the FBI in the case as the “federal bureau of manipulation.”
“This isn’t a terrorism case,” Jhones said. “It’s a manufactured, orchestrated crime by the FBI and its informants.”
Baptiste, 34, and his co-defendants, all “dirt poor,” were pulling a scam trying to extort $50,000 from two people whom they thought were foreign agents, Jhones said.
“They had no more intent to bring down the Sears Tower than the man in the moon,” she said. “The only thing brought down was their dreams, hopes and aspirations.”
Prosecutors said the men took photographs and video of possible targets in Miami, including the FBI building, a courthouse complex and a synagogue.
Other defense attorneys have pointed to the lack of evidence in the case: no blueprints or maps of buildings, no bomb instruction manuals, no stashes of cash.
The men each face 70 years in prison if convicted of all four counts, including conspiracy to support al-Qaida and conspiracy to levy war against the U.S.
The group became known by the name of their neighborhood of Liberty City, an impoverished area of Miami.
Five other defense lawyers will give their closing arguments for about an hour each Friday with a prosecution rebuttal.