By T.G. Branfalt Jr.
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - A Ku Klux Klan member conspired to use a remote-controlled X-ray device hidden in a truck, which he called "Hiroshima on a light switch," as a weapon of mass destruction to harm Muslims and President Barack Obama, a prosecutor told jurors on Monday.
But a lawyer for Glendon Scott Crawford at the start of his trial said that government undercover agents dragged him further into the plot to build what media dubbed the "death ray" machine after he tried to pull away in the initial stages, when he had no more than "a piece of paper" sketching out his ideas.
In opening arguments at U.S. District Court in Albany, a lawyer for Crawford, 51, of Galway, New York, said the device would have never been built if not for the government supplying the necessary components via “criminal” sources.
"(Crawford) has strong political views and he saw Muslim extremism in Europe coming here," defense lawyer Kevin Luibrand said.
Crawford and Eric Feight were arrested in 2013 and charged in the plot to unleash radiation at a mosque in Albany and a Muslim school in nearby Colonie.
The men also planned to attack the White House, according to a recording of their May 2012 conversation played at the trial, in which Crawford described himself a Klansman and called the remote-controlled device "Hiroshima on a light switch."
Feight, of Hudson, New York, pleaded guilty in 2014 to providing material support to terrorists. He faces 15 years at his sentencing, which has been delayed, and it was not known whether he would testify against Crawford.
Rodney Margolis, chief executive of the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York, testified that Crawford tried to interest Jewish leaders in a "black-bag operation" that “would kill Israel’s enemies while they slept.”
Margolis said that Crawford scared him and he immediately called police. As a result, the FBI in Albany soon began surveilling Crawford at home and ultimately deployed a confidential source to further discuss Crawford's scheme with him, U.S. Attorney Stephen Green said.
Judge Gary Sharpe ruled that prosecutors could show jurors the device, which was built from an industrial X-ray machine and electronic beam welders.
Crawford faces three charges, including attempting to produce, construct, acquire, transfer, receive, possess and use a radiological dispersal device. The other two charges are conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and distributing information with respect to a weapon of mass destruction.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)