CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — Three immigrant brothers sentenced to life in prison for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix will not have their life sentences overturned.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said in his ruling made public Tuesday that he didn't buy the arguments from Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka that they were wrongly convicted in 2008 because their lawyers kept them from testifying.
Kugler ruled Friday that he found testimony from their defense attorneys at a January hearing more credible.
The Albanian-born brothers were convicted with two others of plotting an attack at military sites at Fort Dix in New Jersey and elsewhere. Supporters believe the FBI entrapped them and exaggerated the case, but the Dukas have exhausted their appeals.
Dritan "Tony" Duka, 37, said at a January hearing that his lawyer thought he would come across as a Muslim extremist and therefore didn't put him on the stand.
Their trial lawyers denied the accusations and testified for the government. Dritan Duka's trial lawyer, Michael Huff, said he feared his client's desire to express religious views and his suspicion that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might be "an inside job, in order to persecute Muslims" would prove damaging.
Huff, along with fellow trial lawyers Troy Archie and Michael Riley, said they worked vigorously on the case and were prepared to put their clients on the stand, if it came to that.
The Dukas have been in prison since May 2007.
The case has been cited by Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as one of the two "biggest terrorism cases in the world" during his time as U.S. Attorney. But critics believe an FBI informant entrapped the men and say the sentence reflects overzealous efforts to protect the country after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The men were charged in 2007 with conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix. (A sixth was charged with weapons offenses.) Authorities had been alerted initially after a store clerk saw a video of the men shooting guns at a firing range and yelling "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great." Jurors heard hours of secretly recorded audio that included one defendant saying how they could "kill at least 100 soldiers by using rocket-propelled grenades."
Defense attorneys at trial claimed the men may have made anti-American statements but had no plans to attack anything until paid informant Mahmoud Omar infiltrated the group and spent months goading and manipulating them.
This story has been corrected to show judge's decision was filed Tuesday, not Wednesday.