NEW YORK, N.Y. – The mother of a “lone wolf” accused of plotting to attack police stations and post offices with homemade bombs apologized to New Yorkers on Monday, even as questions arose about why federal authorities – who typically handle terrorism cases – declined to get involved in what city officials called a serious threat.
The mother of Jose Pimentel spoke to reporters outside her upper Manhattan home the day after her son was arraigned in state court on terrorism-related charges.
“I didn’t raise my son in that way,” Carmen Sosa said.
Officials with the NYPD, which conducted the undercover investigation using a confidential informant and a bugged apartment, said the department had to move quickly because Pimentel was about to test a pipe bomb made out of match heads, nails and other ingredients bought at neighbourhood hardware and discount stores.
Federal authorities were aware of the probe, but under the circumstances, “it was appropriate to proceed under state charges,” District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in announcing the arrest late Sunday.
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Two law enforcement officials said Monday that the NYPD’s Intelligence Division had sought to get the FBI involved at least twice as the investigation unfolded. Both times, the FBI concluded that he wasn’t a serious threat, they said.
The FBI thought Pimentel “didn’t have the predisposition or the ability to do anything on his own,” one of the officials said.
The officials were not authorized to speak about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The FBI’s New York office and the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan both declined to comment on Monday.
Pimentel’s lawyer, Joseph Zablocki, said his client was never a true threat.
The arrest marked the second time this year that the police department took the unusual step of working with a state prosecutor to bring a terrorism case. In May, two men were indicted on charges they told an NYPD undercover detective about their desire to attack synagogues.
A grand jury declined to indict Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh on the most serious charge initially brought against them – a high-level terror conspiracy count that carried the potential for life in prison without parole. They were, however, indicted on lesser state terrorism and hate crime charges, including one punishable by up to 32 years behind bars.
Attorneys for Ferhani said hate crime charges and a rarely used state terrorism law were misapplied to what they have called a case of police entrapment.
State prosecutors insist that there’s ample evidence that Pimentel went well beyond merely talking about terrorism – and that he was acting on his own initiative.
At an arraignment where Pimentel was ordered held without bail, prosecutors said investigators have “countless hours” of audio and video in this case. And in a criminal complaint, an intelligence division detective alleges Pimentel told him after the arrest that he was about an hour away from finishing the bomb and felt Islamic law obligates all Muslims to wage war against Americans to avenge U.S. military action in their homelands.