The leader of a group, dubbed the Liberty Five, that plotted to blow up the landmark Sears Tower in Chicago was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday.
AFP - A US federal judge sentenced the leader of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago to 13 years in prison Friday, far less than the 70 years sought by prosecutors.
Narcile Batiste, 35, was the fifth member of a group to be sentenced in the 2006 conspiracy to blow up the skyscraper, the tallest building in the United States. None of the five were sentenced to anywhere near the heavy terms that the prosecution had called for.
Batiste, who is alleged to have planned the attack with an FBI undercover agent who posed as an Al-Qaeda member, claimed he planned to take 50,000 dollars in financing and not carry out the plot.
"I was under a lot of pressure, I couldn't bring food to the table," Batiste said.
A jury in May convicted the group -- dubbed the Liberty Five, after the Miami neighborhood where they lived -- of plotting the attack and others against FBI buildings in the hope of bringing down the US government.
The 442 meter Chicago landmark, once the world's tallest building, has since been renamed the Willis tower.
Defense lawyer Ana Maria Johnes argued that no weapons were found in the case, and there was no evidence of a serious plan.
"This was an aspirational case not a real terrorist`s case... There was not immediate threat to the US," she said.
That claim drew fire from prosecutor Jacqueline Marie Arango: "We shouldn't have to wait for people to be harmed to punish these people for their desire to inflict harm," she said.
Defense lawyers had portrayed the FBI sting operation and ensuing arrests in March 2006 as a play for publicity to highlight the government's campaign against terrorism in the United States.
On Wednesday brothers Burson and Rotschild Augustin wept as they were sentenced to six and seven years for their role in the scheme, far lighter than the 30 years called for by the prosecution.
In handing down the sentence against 24-year-old Burson, Judge Joan Lenard said: "Islamic terrorism is one of the most tremendous problems that this country now confronts... this defendant took an oath to Al-Qaeda."
But she added that Augustin's actions might have been affected by other factors. "This was a young man who for whatever reason, perhaps lack of education or lack of direction, came under the influence of Narseal Batiste."
And on Thursday, Patrick Abraham, a 30-year-old from Haiti who was seen as Batiste's right-hand man was jailed for nine years and Stanley Phanor, 34, received an eight-year sentence.
Batiste was convicted on four counts of conspiracy, including providing material support for a foreign terrorist organization, conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, conspiring to blow up buildings with explosives and conspiring to commit seditious acts.
At the time it was built in 1973, the 108-story 1,450 feet (442 meter) Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York.
It remains the tallest building in the United States and now is the fifth-tallest freestanding building in the world.
Date created : 2009-11-21