New Yorker gets 30 years in prison for 'death ray' plot against Muslims

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2016 6:09 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A white supremacist convicted on charges he planned to use a "death ray" to kill Muslims and President Barack Obama was sentenced on Monday to 30 years in prison, federal prosecutors in New York said.

Glendon Scott Crawford, 52, a Navy veteran and a self-proclaimed member of the Ku Klux Klan, was found guilty in August 2015 of conspiring with another man to build a radiation dispersal device, dubbed a "death ray" by tabloids.

Crawford is the first person to be convicted under a law barring attempts to acquire or use a radiological dispersal device. Congress passed the statute in 2004 to punish individuals who try to set off a so-called "dirty bomb," which combines radioactive material with conventional explosives.

U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe imposed the sentence at a hearing in Albany, prosecutors said in a statement. A lawyer for Crawford could not immediately be reached for comment.

Crawford's co-conspirator, Eric Feight, pleaded guilty in connection with the case and was sentenced to eight years and one month in prison.

U.S. prosecutors had sought life in prison for Crawford's conviction on three counts, including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. He faced a mandatory minimum of 25 years. After his release, he will be supervised for life.

"His plot to murder people he did not know was designed to, in his oft-repeated words, 'take his country back' from government leaders by forcing them to change government conduct he perceived as favoring Muslims," prosecutors wrote in a pre-sentencing court filing.

Authorities said Crawford, an industrial engineer at General Electric Co, carried out extensive research on radiation dispersal devices, learning what level of emission was required to kill humans and conducting reconnaissance on potential targets, including a local mosque.

In conversations recorded without his knowledge by a confidential law enforcement source, Crawford spoke often of his hatred of Muslims and said he would go after Obama in the White House with the device.

Defense lawyers, who argued unsuccessfully at trial that Crawford was entrapped by the government, wrote in court papers that the device in question was constructed by federal agents and that Crawford never actually intended to use it.

"Mr. Crawford maintains that he never intended to endanger human life through the release of radiation or of radioactive nuclides," Danielle Neroni, Crawford's attorney, wrote.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Chris Reese and Andrew Hay)