It was touted by the mayor and police commissioner as a unique case of homegrown terrorism that had potentially put hundreds of New Yorkers at risk of attack. Now, that high-profile terrorism bust may be lowering its profile somewhat, as details emerge about a possible plea deal in the case.
A team of anti-terrorism detectives arrested Ahmed Ferhani, 27, in May of 2011, in a sting operation that also collared Ferhani's alleged accomplice, Mohamed Mamdouh, 21. At the time, attorneys for the two men of Middle Eastern descent said the same thing about the case that they do now.
"This is a case that [the government] themselves have manufactured," said Lamis Deek, Ferhani's lawyer, outside criminal court on Tuesday afternoon. However, Ferhani did accept an offer to buy three handguns, three boxes of ammunition and a fake grenade which he thought was real. It was a purchase that led to his arrest on a variety of terrorism and weapons possession charges in the spring of last year, after Ferhani had also told an undercover detective that he wanted to pose as a Jewish worshiper at an unnamed, large Manhattan synagogue and set off a deadly explosion.
"No bombs went off," said police commissioner Ray Kelly then, "But I have no doubt he has great potential to cause mayhem."
The city is still standing by that assessment, but it's also offering a way for Ferhani to not be behind bars for nearly as long as prosecutors had intended. He would go to prison for "perhaps less than half" of the sentence prosecutors had originally sought, according to Deek, Ferhani's attorney, if he accepts a deal that may be on the table. He could face 32 years in prison if found guilty at trial of all of the charges against him.
"It's a big risk for him to take," said Deek about the possible sentence for her client who had also told an undercover detective that he wanted to set off a bomb at the Empire State Building and at a church. "It's a lot of time. Hopefully, we can come to a decision. It's up to my client."
For its part, the office of District Attorney Cy Vance said it does not comment about plea agreements. It has said in the past that it handles every case seriously and appropriately. The Ferhani case appears to be no exception, even though the plea deal would allow his release from prison sooner than a sentence from a guilty verdict would.
It also shows a continuing legal pursuit against terrorism and illegal weapons by the district attorney, according to a source familiar with the Ferhani case. Cy Vance, whose record led to his being recently chosen to be president of all of the state's district attorneys, has blocked nearly $2 billion in terrorist related funding, the source pointed out. Vance has also won 75 major drug-related weapons convictions in the year-and-a-half since Ferhani was arrested.
Ferhani had told an undercover officer that he had sold drugs in an effort to finance his purchase of weapons for use in terrorist attacks.
His next court appearance is scheduled for October 22nd. His attorney told PIX11 News that Ferhani will have decided by that hearing whether or not to accept a plea deal.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times