Tactic will outrage jurors, defense says
The FBI paid almost $56,000 to two confidential informants who are
key to the case against seven men accused of being involved in a terrorist plot
to blow up the Sears Tower and other targets.
According to a document filed by federal prosecutors, the FBI paid
one unnamed informant $10,500 and an additional $8,815 in expenses. They also
paid a second informant $17,000 with another $19,570 for expenses.
U.S. officials also granted the second informant a "significant
public benefit" -- immigration parole so he could remain in the country.
While using paid informants is not unusual in criminal cases, defense attorneys
for the accused men said the compensation and benefits will help them show jurors
the informants are not trustworthy.
"The fact that these are not just good citizens that are cooperating with
the government, but that these are opportunists that are trying to earn not
only money but other benefits by creating a case is extremely significant,"
said Gregory Prebish, attorney for Burson Augustin, one of the accused.
The seven men, part of a religious group headquartered in the Liberty City
area of Miami-Dade County, are facing various charges in connection with attacks
they allegedly planned.
Much of the case hinges on the two informants, one of whom knew the men and
participated in the investigation after alerting authorities. The second man
posed as an al-Qaida operative at the FBI's direction, according to prosecutors.
Secret recordings made by the informants are also central to the case.
According to court documents, alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste approached
the first informant, an acquaintance who has worked with the FBI since around
2004 and who has previously been arrested for assault, possession of marijuana,
and motor vehicle violations.
Batiste allegedly asked the informant whether he knew anyone in Yemen who would
be willing to support his mission against the United States.
After he began working with the FBI on the case, the informant introduced Batiste
to the second informant, who has been working with the FBI for about six years.
The amount of money paid to the informants does not tell the whole story, defense
The informants also received valuable noncash perks, they said, like the immigration
"That's a priceless benefit," said Albert Levin, attorney for Patrick
Abraham, one of the seven.
"You've got to question justice if you've got money being paid to create
cases," said Nathan Clark, attorney for Rotschild Augustine. "I think
it's clearly going to demonstrate the lack of credibility of the charges against
Levin said jurors would likely be outraged to learn how much was spent investigating
a "so-called terrorist organization."
According to prosecutors, the men did not pose an imminent threat.
"I would think that the taxpayers would be outraged that they're paying
this kind of money for this kind of information," he said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending
Lawyer Mark Schnapp of Greenberg Traurig, former head of the criminal division
of the U.S. Attorney's office, said compensating informants is routine in federal
"It's very rare you're going to find someone actively working undercover
as an informant without being paid in some fashion," Schnapp said. "At
the end of the day, what's on the tapes will govern."
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