Top charge gone in NYC terror-plot case

(AP) - Two men accused of a synagogue bomb plot won'tface the most serious charge initially brought against them in arare state-level terror case that city officials trumpeted butfederal terrorism authorities declined to pursue. A grand jury didn't indict Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh onan initial charge of second-degree conspiracy as a terror crime,which carried the potential for life in prison without parole. Theypleaded not guilty Wednesday to lesser state terror and hate-crimecharges, including criminal possession of a weapon as a terrorcrime, punishable by up to 32 years behind bars. The men also facelesser counts of terror conspiracy and hate-crime conspiracy. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and District Attorney Cyrus R.Vance Jr. said the remaining charges still accuse the men of posinga legitimate threat to the city's Jewish community. But defense lawyers said the development reflects a case thathad been overblown. "The charges have been greatly reduced," Mamdouh's lawyer,Aaron Mysliwiec, said after court. "Without even hearing from thedefense, a grand jury decided that the original sensationalallegations were not true." Ferhani's lawyers called the case a trumped-up, politicallymotivated prosecution of a man authorities knew had a history ofmental illness so profound that he had been involuntarily committedto mental hospitals dozens of times. "You will see that this case is bogus. ... It's totalentrapment," said one of his lawyers, Elizabeth Fink, adding thatFerhani's intentions were "absolutely not" terrorism. Ferhani and Mamdouh were arrested May 11 on charges that theywanted to strike a synagogue to avenge what they saw asmistreatment of Muslims around the world. An undercover officer whoinvestigated them reported that Ferhani wanted to become a martyr.The officer said secret recordings caught the men calling Jews"rats" and other names.

Police: 2 men charged in NYC terror plot had guns, grenade

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