An Algerian New York man was sentenced to ten years in prison Friday for plotting to bomb New York City synagogues. The case attracted the attention of human rights groups after doubt was raised over whether police went too far in their attempt to make an arrest.
Ahmed Ferhani was arrested in May 2011 after attempting to buy guns, ammunition, and a hand grenade from an undercover agent. An agent wearing a wire had been following Ferhani for several months. During that time, Ferhani, an unemployed aspiring actor, complained about Jews and the way Muslims were treated around the world. His lawyers claimed that his true intentions were to sell the weapons on the black market for desperately-needed cash.
This was a rare terrorism case prosecuted on the state level. The FBI knew about the case, but they declined the opportunity to get involved out of a belief that there was insufficient cause for alarm. Today’s jury agreed somewhat and chose not to convict Ferhani of top-level terrorism charges.
One lawyer claimed her client plead guilty because a ten year deal is not bad, considering he could have gotten nine years for trying to purchase the arms even without a terrorism charged added on top. The outcome of today’s case was already expected. Prosecutors and the defense came to an agreement back in December for Ferhani to serve a 10-year sentence.
Ferhani apologized to his family for his behavior and committed to improving his character while in prison. He has a history of psychiatric problems and has been institutionalized up to 30 times. At least five of those times resulted from his family calling the police.
Ferhani will likely be deported once his time in prison is over, adding an extra degree of punishment for a man suspected of being reeled into a sting. His citizenship applications have been declined repeatedly due to his criminal history and mental health problems.
The case against Ferhani’s co-conspirator in the New York City synagogue bomb plot, Mohamed Mamdouh, is still pending.