The men from Newburgh, N.Y., were caught in a sophisticated FBI sting in May 2009 that involved a paid informant posing as a representative from a Pakistani terror group. Over more than six weeks of testimony, the informant, Shahed Hussain, spent 13 days on the witness stand, describing the defendants' alleged willingness to help him plot attacks and airing secret recordings of them pledging to do so.
"The defendants thought this was real -- real bombs, real missiles -- every step of the way," Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin told jurors Monday at a federal court in Manhattan, according to The Associated Press.
But the defendants -- Laguerre Payen, Onta Williams, David Williams IV and James Cromitie -- claim entrapment, saying they were duped and had no intention or ability to carry out the plot alone.
"This case is Hussain's meal ticket," Cromitie's lawyer, Vincent Briccetti, told jurors. "He needs you to punch it," he said, according to The New York Times.
Closing arguments, which continue today, have focused almost exclusively on the entrapment accusation, and whether the FBI framed the suspects or overstepped its bounds in collecting information on them.
"The FBI did exactly what it's supposed to do," Raskin told the court Monday, according to AP. "It caught four dangerous men before they could do any real harm. ... Ordinary people wouldn't even dream of what these defendants did."
Both sides agree that the four men helped Hussain to position fake bombs -- which they thought were real, remote-controlled devices -- at the entrances to two synagogues in the Bronx. They also prepared to shoot heat-seeking missiles at aircraft over a National Guard base in Newburgh, about an hour's drive north of New York City.
But defense lawyers argue that Hussain planted the idea of jihad into the defendants' heads and pressured them to go along with the plot. Cromitie tried to back out of the deal, and he cut off contact with Hussain for six weeks, Briccetti said, according to WNYC Radio.
Briccetti also described a camera Hussain gave his client to use for surveillance, according to the Times. But Cromitie sold it for $50 -- proof, the lawyer said, that Cromitie was more concerned about money than participating in the terror attacks.
In more than 100 hours of secret audio and video tapes, jurors often heard Cromitie expressing a desire to do something violent.
In another tape, Cromitie says: "I'm ready to do this damn thing. ... Anything for the cause."
Defense lawyers dismissed the tapes as a "movie written, produced and directed" by the FBI.
The four defendants, all American Muslims, have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles to kill U.S. officers and employees. They face life sentences if convicted.