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5 Miami men convicted of Sears Tower attack plot
"This was a difficult trial, and we thank all the prosecutors and agents involved, whose efforts resulted in today's successful conclusion," said Miami U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta, a holdover Bush appointee.
Prosecutors Richard Gregorie and Jacqueline Arango focused on the group's intent as captured on dozens of FBI audio and video recordings. Batiste is repeatedly heard espousing violence against the U.S. government and saying the men should start a "full ground war" that would "kill all the devils."
"I want to fight some jihad," Batiste says on one tape.
A key piece of evidence is an FBI video of the entire group pledging an oath of allegiance, or "bayat," to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in a March 16, 2006, ceremony led by an Arabic-speaking FBI informant posing as "Brother Mohammed" from al-Qaida. Testimony also showed the men took photographs and video of possible targets in Miami, including the FBI building, a courthouse complex and a synagogue.
But Batiste, who testified in all three trials, insisted he was only going along with Mohammed so he could obtain $50,000 or more for his struggling construction business and a nascent community outreach program. Batiste was leader of a Miami chapter of a sect known as the Moorish Science Temple, which combines elements of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and does not recognize the U.S. government's full authority.
Defense lawyers also claimed the case was an FBI setup driven by informants who manipulated the group.
"This is a manufactured crime," Batiste attorney Ana M. Jhones said earlier in the trial.
A seventh man who was acquitted after the first 2007 trial, 34-year-old Lyglenson Lemorin, is being deported to his native Haiti anyway. Less stringent immigration laws make it easier for U.S. officials to use the terrorism allegations against Lemorin.