2 men sentenced for plotting to attack Muslim community

August 16, 2019 - 4:17 pm

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Two of four young men arrested for plotting to attack an upstate New York Muslim community with homemade explosives were sentenced Friday to four to 12 years in prison.

Brian Colaneri, 20, and Andrew Crysel, 19, pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy in June.

They and two others from the Rochester area were accused of planning to attack the community of Islamberg, near Binghamton. Police have said they had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three homemade explosives when they were arrested in January.

Islamberg is a rural Delaware County community of about 200 residents that has been targeted with accusations, many spread on right-wing websites, of being a terrorist enclave. In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted of federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down Islamberg's mosque.

Police and analysts dismiss the terror camp claims.

"Your terrorist threat was not only an invidious threat to the way of life of your victims, but also a threat to everyone in our democratic society," Monroe County Court Judge Samuel Valleriani told the men at sentencing.

Both defendants expressed remorse.

"I never wanted it to go that far," Colaneri said, according to WHEC in Rochester.

Islamberg resident Tahirah Clark, the community's general counsel, said the plot has changed residents' lives.

"Our children are afraid, they're afraid, but yet resilient and strong and attempting to make the best of our new normal," she said, according to the Democrat & Chronicle , which reported that more than a dozen community members attended the sentencing.

A third defendant, Vincent Vetromile, 20, is scheduled to be sentenced to seven to 12 years in prison Aug. 29 after pleading guilty to weapons possession.

A 16-year-old high school student from suburban Rochester pleaded guilty in youth criminal court last month to criminal possession of a weapon as a crime of terrorism. He will be sentenced to seven years in state prison, serving the first two years in juvenile detention.

Investigators uncovered the plot after a student reported a suspicious comment in a lunchroom.

"This horrible incident shows the importance of coming forward if you believe there is any chance of violence against another," Assistant District Attorney Matthew Schwartz said. "Thank you to the members of the community who voiced their concerns and the Greece Police Department for investigating the matter."

Prosecutors said that for months late last year, Vetromile, Colaneri and Crysel made plans to acquire weapons and discussed strategies and methods for an attack. Vetromile, they said, solicited an individual to make explosive devices.

"These defendants targeted the inhabitants of Islamberg solely because of their religious beliefs," Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said, "and will have years in the New York State Department of Corrections to reflect on the severity of their actions."

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