Terrorist accused Russell De Freitas admitted he was involved in other criminal activities including building and detonating explosives in Guyana and stealing cargo from the John F Kennedy International Airport, a new court document has revealed.
The accused, who along with four others is facing terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to blow up fuel tanks at the JFK airport, was reportedly also caught on audio and video recordings, talking about being involved in travelling internationally under false names and welfare fraud.
The recordings were made during conversations with government witnesses and co-conspirators and the government has since applied to Justice Dora Irizarry, who is presiding over the case, to have such evidence among others be introduced at the trial of the four.
De Freitas, a Guyanese with US citizenship, is charged along with former PNC parliamentarian Abdul Kadir and Abdul Nur, both Guyanese and Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim in an alleged plot to blow up the fuel tanks at the airport.
According to the court document in the form of a letter to the judge, filed by US attorney Loretta Lynch earlier this week, during the recordings De Freitas also discussed ideas on how to obtain firearms from a foreign country and attacking targets in the vicinity of the JFK airport, such as a nearby Jewish school or neighbourhood. The lawyer said the evidence of discussion about the Jewish school and neighbourhood will be presented in court to prove motive, preparation and plan.
Additionally, the government also intends to introduce evidence that De Freitas, who has allegedly admitted to being the mastermind behind the plot, and a co-conspirator made efforts to secure false travel documents to assist the co-conspirator in travelling illegally to the US. During the conversation he informed that he had helped illegal aliens enter the US.
Lynch said they also intend to introduce recordings of conversations during which De Freitas and others charged in the conspiracy discuss the February 2007 arrest of Nur in Guyana for allegedly engaging in sexual assault.
“The government does not intend to offer these statements as evidence of the underlying conduct; indeed, the charges were ultimately dropped by Guyanese authorities,” the state attorney said.
However, she said the statements are important to explain actions taken by the conspirators in relation to the charged plot.
The attorney argued that all the evidence presented are pertinent since they are inextricably intertwined with, and necessary to complete the story of, the charged crimes.
“The recorded statements of De Freitas describing other possible targets are clearly admissible as direct evidence of conspiratorial intent,” she argued.
Further, the recorded statements in which De Freitas discusses his involvement in prior crimes and the conversations regarding Nur’s arrest are important evidence explaining the actions and tactics of the plotters, the attorney said. She gave the example of De Freitas’s prior involvement in the theft of cargo from JFK airport which demonstrates his intimate knowledge of the cargo area and security regime at the airport, which was the main target of the four. It was also an attempt to educate the witness regarding how to avoid detection by the port authority police.
And his discussion about his involvement in bomb-making in Guyana was done apparently to assure others of his violent intentions.
The lawyer said that there is little question that the trust level between the four, and particularly between De Freitas and the cooperating witness, will be a matter for dispute at the trial. She said the above evidence will provide the jury with the background of the conspiracy, including the development of the illegal relationship and the formation of the conspirators’ mutual trust.
And the attorney in her letter further posited that the evidence of De Freitas’ involvement in the pursuit of false travel documents, as well as his recorded statements regarding travelling internationally under false names and transporting illegal weapons, will be offered to prove preparation, plan and knowledge.
According to the attorney, De Freitas and his co-accused engaged in planning how to travel and transport items across international boundaries without detection by law enforcement.
The US government has sought an anonymous jury in the case “because of the defendants’ terrorist activities” and their “contact with violent organisations”.
The four were arrested following information provided to the US authorities by a confidential source, who is a convicted drug trafficker and who is receiving financial assistance for the information provided. Authorities said the source has “provided extremely credible information that has been corroborated by consensual recordings, e-mails, financial documents, surveillance and other records and information.”
The defendants’ association with the Trinidadian militant group JAM also raised concerns about juror safety and the integrity of the judicial process. “JAM has a long history of violence,” Campbell wrote.
The prosecution also detailed the activities of the organisation and its leader Abu Bakr, who is said to have links with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and other Islamic militant organisations. That organisation is said to be “notorious for witness tampering and otherwise obstructing the judicial process.”