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What you need to know for 04/23/2017

Death ray suspect makes deal

Death ray suspect makes deal

Eric Feight expressed a personal responsibility in aiding Glendon Scott Crawford’s plan to build a m
Death ray suspect makes deal
Glendon Scott Crawford, of Providence, left photo, and Eric J. Feight, of Hudson, right photo, being led out of the James T. Foley Federal Courthouse in Albany following a bail hearing the day after being charged in conspiracy to provide material suppo...
Photographer: Patrick Dodson

Eric Feight expressed a personal responsibility in aiding Glendon Scott Crawford’s plan to build a mobile remote-operated ionizing ray.

The 55-year-old contractor had met Crawford while working on projects at General Electric Co. and sympathized with his radical political views. Both men distrusted the government and viewed Muslims with disdain, so when Crawford suggested a plot to weaponize an industrial X-ray device and secretly poison human targets, Feight told him he was “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

“[T]he only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good me to do nothing,” Feight said during a November 2012 meeting in Scotia with Crawford and a pair of men later revealed as undercover FBI agents.

Feight, of the small Columbia County town of Stockport, admitted to his role in assisting Crawford on Wednesday, pleading guilty to a single felony count of providing material support to terrorists. Wearing a green Rensselaer County Jail jumpsuit and with four family members watching from the gallery, Feight solemnly told U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe he was aware of the consequences of his plea, which could land him as many as 15 years in federal prison.

But the plea also means Feight will face no mandatory minimum when sentenced May 22. Peter Moschetti Jr., Feight’s attorney, said his client took a plea rather than face the sentence now hanging over Crawford, who would spend a minimum of 25 years in federal prison if found guilty of the top count in his indictment.

“This is essentially the lesser charge,” Moschetti said of Feight’s plea in U.S. District Court in Albany.

Feight, who has not yet agreed to testify against Crawford, could conceivably receive time served in the case. He’s been jailed since his arrest in June.

Feight acknowledged he built a “radio wave-operated remote initiation device” to activate Crawford’s radiological weapon. Moschetti likened the device to a “remote car starter” that could be assembled in a matter of hours.

Feight’s role was much different from Crawford’s, Moschetti said after the plea: “He was a minor participant.”

Moschetti said Feight actually tried to distance himself from Crawford as his plan for the lethal ray materialized. He said Feight stalled building the remote for months, before finally building it.

Feight also believed the radiological weapon would be deployed to battle “terrorist cells,” Moshetti said. Crawford told undercover FBI agents he intended to strike a mosque in Albany and an Islamic center in Schenectady.

“His idea of who this would be used against was far different than Crawford’s,” Moschetti said.

Crawford, who lives in the Saratoga County town of Providence, appeared in federal court Wednesday to answer a federal indictment returned last week. In a short appearance, he pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Dressed in a black-and-white Warren County Jail jumpsuit and sporting a salt-and-pepper beard, Crawford whispered “I love you” to a trio of family members who attended the proceeding. His attorney, Kevin Luibrand, declined comment afterward.

The most serious charge against Crawford — attempting to produce and use a radiological dispersal device — carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years. Previously, he faced as much as 15 years on a single felony count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Both men have remained jailed without bail since their arrests.

In the criminal complaint filed in June, federal investigators portrayed Crawford as a man driven by his hatred for Muslims and with a relentless pursuit to silently harm them from afar. They described him as a member of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who was on the verge of creating a weapon that would have allowed him to act on his deep-seated hatred.

Crawford walked into the Congregation Gates of Heaven synagogue in Schenectady in April 2012, claiming he had a weapon to help the Jewish people solve their problems in Israel. He had a similar conversation with staff at the Jewish Federation of Northeast New York, prompting that organization’s director of community relations to contact authorities.

Crawford met with a confidential FBI source in Scotia several months later, according to the complaint. He identified the Muslim community as his targets and described the device he sought to build as “Hiroshima on a light switch” that would kill “everything with respiration” by the next morning.

Later in 2012, he began lobbying a high-ranking member of a Klan organization in North Carolina to get funding for his device, the criminal complaint states. The ranking Klan member told authorities about Crawford’s plot, which allowed federal agents to pose as potential co-conspirators.

FBI investigators tracked Crawford through his contact with undercover agents posing as people sympathetic to his cause and others who assisted him over the course of 14 months. They claim Crawford was able to draw up a schematic and assemble parts to create a system that would have caused injury at a minimum, perhaps even death.

Feight produced computer-generated plans for the remote in November 2012. Crawford provided him with the parts to build the remote in February 2013.

Feight then told Crawford his intentions to limit his role in the plot to building the remote. When Crawford asked whether he was still on board with the plan, Feight reaffirmed his commitment.

Feight built the device in his garage and basement, finally producing the remote for Crawford in May 2013, according to court documents. Crawford tested the remote and found it worked from nearly a half-mile away.

Crawford selected several targets where the lethal device could be activated. Last summer, he brought undercover agents to sites in Albany and Schenectady where he suggested it could be deployed to harm Muslims.

Crawford was taken into custody inside a vacant garage that once housed Shorty’s Auto Body in Schaghticoke just as he was powering up the X-ray device. Feight was arrested a short time later.

Previously, their attorneys described the men as tinkerers with no educational background to create a functional X-ray device capable of causing injury. Some radiation safety experts have also dismissed the notion of the lethal device as pure science fiction.

But federal prosecutors insist the plan Crawford devised would have worked, had he not been kept on a short leash over the course of the investigation.

Moschetti said his client started to realize his mistake in agreeing to help Crawford in the months leading to his arrest. He acknowledged this didn’t absolve him of blame in the case.

“Sometimes you make bad judgments,” he said.

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