In his only interview since being convicted of domestic terrorism, David Williams says his dying brother’s lack of health insurance drove him to the brink.
It’s very possible you’ve heard of the Newburgh Four, the four Bronx, New York, men who are facing sentencing this month after being convicted of domestic terrorism. The men—James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen—were found guilty of plotting to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military airplanes with missiles. An undercover FBI informant, Shahed Hussain, guided the men’s scheming all along the way, and it’s likely they wouldn’t have accomplished much, if anything, without his constant prodding and assistance. Still, a jury convicted the four, and now they’re facing life in prison.
In a new story from the Village Voice, however, one of the men, David Williams, says the only reason he was involved in the plot was to shake down Hussain for money to pay for his dying brother’s liver transplant. “We all said lots of things only to either impress [Hussain] or make him think he found a band of real killers. We never meant one word of what we said," David Williams wrote to a friend since being incarcerated.
Did a young man jump into a terrorism plot just because he couldn’t afford proper medical care?
To be sure, David Williams had a history of drug busts before becoming involved with Hussain. But in the months before his arrest, when Cromitie and Hussain initially met, David Williams was working at a restaurant in Brooklyn. He returned to Newburgh, N.Y., to help support his mother when his brother, Lord, fell ill. And that’s when the trouble started. (David Williams and Onta Williams aren't related.)
According to FBI records, Cromitie was offered a new car, a quarter of a million dollars, and his own barbershop business if he participated in the terrorist plot. Cromitie then approached the newly Newburgh-based David Williams to join the planning and, according to Williams, assured him of two things: One, no violence would take place, and two, he would be able to earn money to pay for Lord’s badly needed liver transplant. David Williams also says Hussain promised him money for the operation.
"That's what the whole thing was about," David Williams told the Voice. "Cromitie promised me nothing was going to happen."
David Williams does admit that he acted as a lookout during the planting of bombs at the synagogues, but he says he left after five minutes, uninterested in hurting anyone and more concerned with going to see his son. He walked away to find a train station to get to Coney Island, where his son lives, and that’s when he was apprehended by law enforcement. The rest is courtroom history.
Nobody is saying David Williams is an angel, of course. But assuming he’s telling the truth—and the evidence of Hussain’s wild financial enticements seem to suggest that he is—David Williams seems to be yet another casualty of a nation that refuses to look after the health care of its poorest citizens.
In December 2009, one woman got married to get health insurance. Some people are traveling to other countries for treatment, a practice called “medical tourism.” And now, in the Bronx, we’ve possibly got a case of a man who involved himself with a bogus terrorist plot just to keep his brother alive. The sad irony is brutal: David Williams ruined his life to try and save his brother’s.
Image: AP Photo