MIAMI - After a three-month trial, a Miami jury convicted five men of multiple charges including conspiring to provide material support to the al-Qaida terrorist organization and conspiracy to levy war against the United States by discussing and planning attacks on targets in the United States, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI building and other federal buildings in Florida following a FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation. A sixth defendant was acquitted on all counts.
The six men, Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin and Rothschild Augustine, were named in an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Miami in June 2006. The four-count indictment charged the defendants with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely al-Qaida, conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists, conspiracy to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive and conspiring to levy war against the U.S. government. Batiste was convicted on all four counts. Abraham was convicted on the first three counts. Phanor and both Augustins were convicted on the first two counts. Herrera was acquitted on all counts.
According to evidence presented at trial, beginning in November 2005, Batiste recruited and supervised individuals to organize and train to wage war against the United States, as well as to destroy the Sears Tower by explosives. Batiste and his co-conspirators attempted to obtain the support of al-Qaida to achieve their goals and discussed this desire with an individual cooperating with law enforcement who posed as a member of al-Qaida. In March 2006, believing they were dealing with al-Qaida, Batiste and other defendants pledged an oath of allegiance to the terrorist organization and initiated a plan to destroy FBI buildings by taking photos of the FBI building in North Miami Beach, Fla., and other federal buildings in Miami-Dade County.
In addition to conducting surveillance of federal buildings, the defendants provided the individual, whom they believed was an al-Qaida member, with a list of materials and equipment needed to wage jihad including boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles. In December 2005, Batiste spoke of using an army of "soldiers" and explosives to destroy the Sears Tower at one of the meetings with this person. In a subsequent meeting, he provided the individual with a list of other materials needed to take down the Sears Tower including radios, binoculars, bullet proof vests, firearms, vehicles and $50,000 in cash.
In one of the meetings on Feb. 19, 2006, Batiste allegedly told the al-Qaida representative that he wanted to attend al-Qaida training with five of his soldiers to wage a "full ground war" against the United States in order to "kill all the devils we can," which "will be just as good or greater than 9/11." Ultimately, all seven of the defendants swore "bayat," or an oath of loyalty to al-Qaida. Sentencing is scheduled for July 26, 2009. The defendants face a maximum penalty of 15 years each in prison on the charges of conspiracy to provide material support or resources, and a maximum of 20 years in prison each on the charges of conspiracy to destroy by use of explosives and conspiracy to levy war against the United States.
This prosecution was the result of an investigation led by the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Miami. The JTTF is comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies whose primary work is to identify and disrupt terrorist cells before they commit acts of terror. Members of the JTTF include ICE, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, the FBI, U.S. Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Prisons, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Miami Dade Police Department, City of Miami Police Department, Broward Sheriff's Office, Palm Beach County's Sheriff's Office, Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, Hollywood Police Department and the Miramar Police Department.