Glendon Scott Crawford on Tuesday toiled for hours inside the defunct garage that once housed Shorty’s Auto Body in Schaghticoke, aligning all the components needed to test the lethal X-ray system he had planned for years, a federal prosecutor said.
During the previous 24 hours, the 49-year-old industrial mechanic allegedly brought individuals he thought to be partners in his scheme to locations where his device could be stealthily deployed: a mosque in Albany and an Islamic center in Schenectady. By late Tuesday afternoon, Crawford allegedly connected the parts he and 54-year-old Eric Feight had gathered or built over the past 14 months, and then powered the finished product up for a demonstration.
“He did everything except one thing, which was to flip the switch to emit radiation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Green said during a detention hearing for the men Thursday. “He said he didn’t do that because of the level of danger it would pose to him.”
The entire criminal complaint can be found on the Around Saratoga blog.
But the people Crawford thought were partners were actually undercover FBI agents. Moments later, a SWAT team raided the garage, arresting Crawford on a charge of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
Feight was taken into custody on the same charge later that day.
Two days after their arrest, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christian Hummel ruled both Crawford and Feight should remain behind bars without bail, pending the outcome of the case. In reaching the decision in federal court in Albany, Hummel found the men posed “a real clear and present danger” if released, meaning no amount of bail for them could ensure the safety of the community.
Dressed in a green Rensselaer County Jail jumpsuit, Feight brought both hands to his forehead and then slowly dragged them down his face. Crawford, who was seated in front of him, stared motionlessly down at the table as Hummel read his ruling.
The wives of both men were in the gallery, along with other family members and supporters. They brushed by members of the media, occasionally saying “no comment” as Crawford and Feight were led away in shackles.
In a 65-page criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, federal investigators claim Crawford wanted to design a mobile system that could be mounted in a van and parked by a targeted group that would then be blasted by lethal doses of X-rays. He enlisted Feight, a contractor whom he knew for several years through his job at General Electric Co., into designing a remote device to activate the X-ray from afar.
The complaint alleges the men planned to either give or sell the device to groups interested in killing Muslims. As designed, the device would deliver its lethal payload, which wouldn’t be realized by the target until days later.
Crawford, who federal investigators describe as someone with ties to the Ku Klux Klan, solicited funds from one of that organization’s leaders in North Carolina. He also approached two Capital Region Jewish organizations — including the Gates of Heaven synagogue in Schenectady — offering a device that would aid Israel against its enemies, according to the complaint.
During their detention proceedings, court-appointed defense attorneys attempted to poke holes in the prosecution’s case to hold the two men in prison. Both were described as family men lacking a criminal record or the know-how to devise the type of machine federal prosecutors claimed they were moments away from finishing.
Kevin Luibrand, Crawford’s lawyer, described his client as a Navy veteran, a devoted father of three, and a former volunteer firefighter who owns a modest property in the Saratoga County town of Providence. He said Crawford’s formal education stopped after graduating from high school in Burnt Hills and that the government was overestimating the ability of someone who is essentially a “car mechanic.”
“[The X-ray system] might have been something kicking around in his head, but was not something he was capable of building,” Luibrand said.
Luibrand also questioned the viability of the type of device Crawford is accused of creating. He said experts in the radiology field reviewing some of the details contained in the criminal complaint called a mobile weaponized X-ray-emitting system “extremely unfeasible, far-fetched and pushing the bounds of reality.”
“At best, [the FBI] got a few tinkerers,” he said.
And if the men were a danger to the public, Luibrand questioned why federal agents let them run free for more than a year. He said the fact they we allowed to remain free for 14 months shows how minimal a threat they actually posed.
“If they were harmful to anyone even once, [the FBI] would have pulled them off the street,” he said.
George Baird, the defense attorney representing Feight, described his client as someone who attended Florida State University and graduated with an associate’s degree in mathematics, and a father of three with a modest home in the Columbia County city of Hudson. He said Feight is an integral employee at Cobleskill Stone Products and recently launched his own business, Genius Industrial Solutions.
Baird also scoffed at the allegations. He disputed the notion that anyone could devise a device to do what federal agents are claiming in the criminal complaint.
“This is nonsense,” he said. “You could not design a machine … that could do what the government is saying it could do.”
Federal prosecutors vehemently disagree. They claim the device the men had designed was both viable and lethal — something that could be activated from roughly a half-mile away and then moved once it had delivered its fatal blast.
“This isn’t something out of ‘Buck Rogers,’ ” said John Duncan, an assistant prosecutor. “This was real.”