The federal government’s confidential informant in a bomb plot case against two Jewish Defense League leaders was identified by defense lawyers Tuesday, upsetting prosecutors who expressed concern for his safety.
The defense attorneys said that Danny Gillis, a 22-year-old former Navy enlisted man, set up Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel in hopes of wresting control of the organization from them.
Prosecutors bristled with annoyance at the disclosure, which occurred during a sidewalk news conference outside federal court in Los Angeles.
However, they did not dispute that Gillis implicated Rubin and Krugel in a plot to blow up the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and the San Clemente field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who is of Lebanese heritage.
Rubin, the JDL’s national chairman, and Krugel, the organization’s West Coast coordinator, pleaded not guilty Tuesday before a federal magistrate.
One of Rubin’s lawyers, Peter Morris, told reporters afterward that Gillis “is a crazy man who had a vendetta against Rubin.” He repeated earlier defense claims that Rubin and Krugel were entrapped.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Gregory Jessner, the lead prosecutor in the case, listened quietly as the defense lawyers attacked Gillis by name outside the court. Afterward, Jessner confronted Morris about identifying Gillis, telling him “that’s not the way things are done here.”
Jessner declined to comment further, but Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said:
“We want to do everything we can to ensure the safety of informants who provide important information to our investigations, and publicizing their names could easily compromise the safety of this or any other informant.”
Morris, a former federal prosecutor, said he saw nothing wrong with revealing Gillis’ name, which, he noted, would have surfaced during future court proceedings.
The defense lawyer said witnesses will testify that Gillis boasted that he planned to “take down” Rubin and Krugel and assume control of the JDL.
Morris said the FBI became Gillis’ unwitting tool.
Public records reveal only scant details about Gillis: He is 22, served in the Navy as an enlisted man, and registered as a member of the American Independent Party during the 2000 general election. His last known address was a Northridge condominium.
In 2000, a person identifying himself as Danny Gillis posted a statement on the Internet defending the JDL, saying the organization “has gotten a bad rep over the past years. Now we are trying to change that.
“We are not bad people and we don’t like to cause trouble, but sometimes to get rid of evil people you have to do evil things,” the statement reads.
Brett Stone, a longtime JDL member, said outside court Tuesday that he had met Gillis at a fund-raiser in 1999. Stone said Gillis asked if the JDL sold drugs and also told Stone that he knew how to make bombs.
In a court affidavit filed after Rubin and Krugel were arrested, FBI Agent Mary Hogan said the informant was recruited into the JDL by Rubin and Krugel when he was a teenager.
The informant, she said, had committed previous criminal acts on behalf of the JDL, including building and placing a bomb at an unidentified mosque. The affidavit gave no details.
The document said the informant contacted the FBI after he was invited to a meeting with Rubin and Krugel on Oct. 19 to discuss bombing Arab religious and political institutions.
According to prosecutors, the informant agreed to wear a concealed transmitter and attended about a dozen subsequent meetings, mostly with Krugel, to plan the attacks.
The prosecution’s case rests largely on tape recordings of those meetings. Copies were recently turned over to the defense.
Jessner told reporters Tuesday that the tapes will show that “the defendants were not entrapped.”
Defense lawyers said that they are analyzing the tapes, but that it is clear that Gillis masterminded the alleged plot.
Rubin and Krugel were arrested Dec. 11 after the informant dropped off five pounds of explosive powder--the final component for a pipe bomb--at Krugel’s home in Reseda.
If convicted, each defendant could be sentenced to more than two life terms without the possibility of release.
Rubin, 56, and Krugel, 59, are being held without bail in solitary confinement at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center. Their trial is scheduled to start March 19.