Police Informant Lured Mentally Ill Man Into “Bomb Plot,” Got Him Imprisoned for “Terrorism”

Adam Klasfeld | Courthouse News Service

MANHATTAN (CN) — As Attica prisoner Ahmed Ferhani hangs onto life following a suicide attempt, his supporters gathered at Manhattan’s One Police Plaza to shed light on a case that once set New York City abuzz with allegations of terrorism and entrapment.

Ferhani was 26 years old when prosecutors charged him five years ago with a plot to bomb synagogues and churches in New York City. Prosecutors said that Ferhani met inside his Queens home with Mohamed Mamdouh and an informant and planned to pose as a religious Jew to pull off the plot without being caught by law enforcement.

Once the fear died down, the case raised eyebrows because, unlike in similar prosecutions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to take it.

An anonymous FBI source told WNYC at the time of the indictment that this was because the “hyped” terror charges would not stand up in court.

Defense attorneys alleged that a police informant lured their mentally ill and suggestible client into making damning statements over an eight-month long undercover operation.

The year of Ferhani’s indictment, New York University researchers released a study of three cases in which defendants were snared in what researchers described as “government-manufactured” plots.

Entrapment defenses, however, never succeeded before New York City juries, and were a particularly hard sell in a city that lost nearly 3,000 people in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

In 2013, Ferhani accepted a plea deal that had him locked up a maximum-security prison for a decade, far shorter than the sentencing exposure he would otherwise have faced had he lost at trial.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance touted the guilty plea as a watershed for being the first successful use of state anti-terror laws in the post-9/11 era.

Meanwhile, Ferhani’s attorneys and supporters still maintained his innocence, but his case rarely drew attention from inside Attica Correctional Facility’s gates until the Algerian-American prisoner tried to hang himself last Thursday.

On Tuesday, his attorney Lamis Deek revealed that her comatose client has a 50 percent chance of survival, as dozens of activist skewered law enforcement and prison officials in front of NYPD headquarters.

“We are here today because, as a society, we failed Ahmed Ferhani,” Deek said. “When he needed a job we, failed him. When he needed treatment, we failed him. When he needed someone safe, someone other than an undercover cop from an illegally operating NYPD unit operating by illegal means, to befriend and support him, we failed him.”

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to an email request for comment sent after business hours Tuesday.

After his indictment five years ago, Deek told reporters that Ferhani had been forcibly institutionalized at least 20 times in the decade before his arrest.

Prison had taken a heavy toll on Ferhani, who wrote a letter telling U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that he constantly dealt with “oppression and hatred” behind bars.

“My mental health diagnosis is difficult to manage as it is, but even more difficult to manage in such a cruel and wicked environment this is dedicated to destroying rather than helping me,” he told Lynch, according to his lawyer. “I am officially tired of this abuse.”

Attica’s violent reputation made national headlines with a 1971 prisoner riot for better living conditions, and its history resurfaced early last year when three guards pleaded guilty to fatally beating a prisoner in 2011.

The U.S. Department of Justice opened a probe for civil-rights violations at Attica in May 2015, the New York Times reported.

Ferhani is one of the inmates who have been claiming sexual harassment and physical abuse by guards, who allegedly left him with 12 stitches in his head.

New York’s Department of Corrections declined to comment for this story.

Emphasizing the immediate goal to stabilize Ferhani’s condition, Deek demanded that “a full and objective investigation is launched into the circumstance surrounding the violence of the [corrections officer]s against him at Green Meadows and Attica and to ensure that COs are held accountable for their actions.”

Tuesday’s rally was organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights and DRUM NYC, two local nonprofit groups.

Ferhani’s parents could not attend because they were with their son in the hospital, the organizers said.

Published by Courthouse News Service.