The Justice Department finally succeeded in securing convictions against Miami men accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. Five defendants were convicted and one was acquitted. The prior two trials ended in hung juries and this trial was a close call with the replacement of a clearly pro-defense juror in the middle of deliberations. The case was always long on rhetoric and short on evidence — resulting in the expenditure of between $5 to $10 million to convict the group in a highly controversial prosecution.
The case lacked any concrete evidence of an actual effort to plan or carryout a terrorist attack. A government informant orchestrated a videotaped ceremony of the men swearing loyalty to Al Qaeda. The Justice Department clearly thought that the choreographed The defendants were largely poor individuals of Haitian descent: Narseal Batiste, 35; Patrick Abraham, 29; Stanley Grant Phanor, 33; Rotschild Augustine, 25; Burson Augustin, 24; and Naudimar Herrera, 25. They gladly took the money offered by the government but said it was a scam to rip off the informant. They never took any steps to buy weapons or material.
The case was heralded by the Justice Department in Congress to justify the Patriot Act and its increased powers after September 11th.
The first trial ended with the acquittal of defendant in December 2007 and a deadlocked jury. The 2008 jury also deadlocked. In this case, Herrera was acquitted. Augustine, Phanor, and Augustin were convicted on two counts of providing “material support” while Abraham was convicted on three counts. Batiste, the leader, was convicted on four counts. Only Batiste was convicted on all counts with the jury rejecting many of the counts against the other convicted individuals.
For the full story, click here.