Feds want jurors to see alleged death-ray machine
Alleged plot was to use radiation on Muslims
By Robert Gavin
Updated 10:56 am, Monday, August 17, 2015
The arrests were jaw-dropping. The trial could be eye-popping.
Glendon Scott Crawford, 51, a reputed Klansman from Saratoga County, goes on trial Monday before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gary Sharpe on allegations he planned to use a remote control-operated X-ray device hidden in a truck to unleash deadly radiation on Muslims, people he considered “undesirables.”
Federal prosecutors working for U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian have lined up an eclectic list of witnesses that includes undercover federal agents, a North Carolina-based Klansman who cooperated with the government and two experts who will attest to the weapon’s potential deadliness, court papers show.
And the prosecutors have another sight for jurors: The would-be killing machine itself.
“The government intends to produce the X-ray device and will request that the court permit the jury to view it in a secured room within the courthouse,” assistant U.S. attorneys Stephen Green and Richard Bellis wrote in their pre-trial brief to Sharpe. “The device itself is very real, and its size, relative weight, component composition, and portability are directly relevant to the charged offenses. Juror inspection of it will give context to, and corroborate, other evidence the jury will see and hear.”
But Crawford’s lawyer, Kevin Luibrand, said the device was harmless.
The prosecutors asked Sharpe to limit public disclosure of the device, in addition to portions of some witnesses’ testimony and “certain terms and identifiers.” They asked that special measures be taken to protect undercover agents, a confidential human source, and a cooperating witness at “the entrance and exit to-and-from the courtroom and appearance while testifying.”
The prosecution’s expert witnesses were identified as Dr. Gary Richter and Dr. Albert L. Wiley Jr., a radiation and nuclear physicist.
Kevin Luibrand, the defense attorney for Crawford, argued in his trial brief to Sharpe that the experts will offer nothing more than generic testimony of X-ray devices and standards on radiation on a hypothetical device — not the one that client is accused of building.
“Such testimony is legally irrelevant and here, prejudicial to the defendant,” Luibrand stated.
Luibrand plans to call defense witnesses who have worked with Crawford or know him and will testify that Crawford was not someone “inclined or motivated to cause harm to others.”
Luibrand contends the device was incapable of hurting anyone. He argued that his client’s “initial involvement was solely with respect to his general ideas about such devices and the prospect of their use overseas against Muslim extremists.”
He will argue that Crawford was a victim of government entrapment and would never have committed any alleged wrongdoing without the encouragement of the undercover agents.
The government contends the device could have been a true threat. On June 18, 2013, the FBI arrested Crawford and his Columbia County-based friend, Eric Feight, for their alleged plot. Prosecutors said Crawford, the reputed Klan member, approached Jewish organizations for help in his hope to pull off “Hiroshima on a lightswitch.” Specifically, they contend Crawford visited Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady and phoned the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York in the hope of finding financing for technology to defeat supposed enemies of Israel. The prosecution contends Crawford and Feight scouted a mosque in Albany and an Islamic center in Schenectady as “viable target” locations to wreak X-ray havoc, the gravity of which would not be known right away.
“A central feature of Crawford’s completed X-ray device was that its human targets, and those around them, would be exposed to dangerous and lethal doses of X-ray radiation without being aware of the exposure, the harmful effects of which would likely not become apparent until days afterwards,” prosecutors stated in their brief.
Instead of joining the alleged plot, the people Crawford approached called police who relayed the information to the FBI. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Albany launched a dragnet to sting Crawford.
Court documents show that in August 2012, Crawford drove to North Carolina to meet with a high-ranking Klansman to discuss the alleged plot. The Klansman, however, worked with federal investigators and introduced Crawford to two FBI agents posing as Klan-connected coal mining executives. Crawford asked them to finance the scheme.
The government followed Crawford for more than 14 months between Albany, North Carolina and Connecticut as he met with agents, unaware they were trying to arrest him.
Feight, whom Crawford knew from his job at General Electric, and Crawford met with the agents in an Albany-area coffee shop in November 2012.
“What do you know about us?” an agent asked Feight.
“Not a lot,” Feight answered.
“I have to admit, having never been involved in anything like this before, you know at first it made me a little bit nervous,” Feight told the agents. “I’ve done nothing for a lot of years but just shoot my mouth off and I ... see how effective that’s been. So although I would still like to maintain as much plausible deniability as I can, like you say, you know (in) for a penny, (in) for a pound.”
Crawford used the name “Dimitri” in his conversations with the agents. Feight, his software contact, was identified as “Yoda.” Both were lulled into a government sting and apparently had no clue arrest was near.
“Glad I met you guys,” Crawford told an agent a month before his arrest. “We are going to drive a stake through their heart.”
Feight pleaded guilty in January 2014 to providing material support to terrorists. Prosecutors will not say if he is a potential witness. He faces up to 15 years in federal prison.
Crawford faces complicated charges that include one count of attempting to produce, construct, acquire, transfer, receive, possess, and use a radiological dispersal device; a second count of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction; and a third count, distributing information with respect to a weapon of mass destruction.
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