For a moment in early 2009, James Cromitie, who was being secretly taped in a federal terrorism sting operation, voiced doubts. A government informer asked Mr. Cromitie if he still wanted to go through with a plot to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes.
“I have to think about it,” Mr. Cromitie replied during a recorded conversation on Feb. 23, 2009. The informer pressed him to speed things up — for instance, by recruiting more members for the plot from a local mosque.
“Don’t ever ask me to ask the brothers in the mosque to do anything,” Mr. Cromitie snapped.
As Mr. Cromitie seemed to waver in the months before his arrest in May 2009 — avoiding the informer’s calls and disappearing for several weeks — the informer’s entreaties to him grew more and more urgent.
In April, the informer, Shahed Hussain, told Mr. Cromitie that he had put his “life on the line” for Mr. Cromitie, an allusion to a Pakistani terror group that Mr. Hussain said he belonged to. “When I say to my brother, ‘I’m going to do this,’ I need to do it,” he said. In another conversation, he reproached Mr. Cromitie: “I told you I can make you $250,000, but you don’t want it.”
Lawyers for Mr. Cromitie and three other men arrested in the case say Mr. Hussain’s appeals to act turned the men to terror and constituted illegal entrapment. Prosecutors assert there is ample evidence in dozens of recorded conversations — and the defendants’ own actions — that the defendants were willing to commit terror.