NEW YORK (JTA) — The last of four men convicted last year in a bombing plot that included two New York synagogues received the minimum mandatory prison sentence, 25 years.
At Wednesday’s sentencing, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon and the defendant, Laguerre Payen, questioned whether Payen fit the definition of a terrorist.
Payen and three other co-conspirators were convicted last October of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, as well as other charges, for planning to blow up the Riverdale Jewish Center and the Riverdale Temple in the Bronx. They also are accused of seeking Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down military aircraft.
The four men, all from Newburgh, N.Y., were arrested in 2009 as part of an FBI sting operation that had begun the previous year.
The sting operation, which was aided by a paid government information posing as someone with high-level connections to a terrorist group, has come under criticism — notably from McMahon.
"The government made them terrorists," she said Wednesday, The New York Times reported. "I’m not proud of my government after what it did in this case."
At the hearing, Payen made the unusual move of addressing the court.
"Am I terrorist?" he asked McMahon, according to the Times. "Am I what they say, an extremist? Am I guilty?"
The judge at least partially agreed with the defendant while handing down the minimum mandatory sentence.
“I can tell you this: You were prepared to do a terrible thing, and you tried to do a terrible thing, and you tried to do it for a terrible reason,” McMahon told Payen. “Maybe it doesn’t make you a terrorist, but it makes you a criminal.”