When federal officials arrest a United States citizen for supposedly providing assistance to a terrorist organization, criminal defense counsel must investigate the details of the surrounding events very thoroughly. In several of the arrests on felony charges of persons allegedly aiding a terrorist organization, the gathered facts may support a possible entrapment defense. Entrapment under New York law is a defense that generally involves the police providing assistance or encouragement to an individual for purposes of committing a crime that the person was not inclined or ready to commit.
The issue may arise in the recent arrest of a 25-year-old man in Rochester for allegedly planning a New Year's Eve machete attack at a local restaurant. The man was allegedly in touch with one or more ISIS sympathizers through Internet communications. However, he had no funds and was not militarily equipped to conduct a terrorist attack.
Apparently, the defendant's plan to conduct the machete attack was highly influenced by undercover government agents who provided encouragement and even the necessary monetary assistance. At one point, the agent closely working with the accused told him that he was dropping out of the plot. The defendant at that time stated that he was "thinking about stopping" the plot. As a result of that statement, authorities assigned another undercover agent to get the defendant enthusiastic.
The agent took the impoverished suspect to a Walmart and bought supplies worth $40 because the suspect had no money. The suspect allegedly then said it was "going to get real" at that point. To further complicate this prosecution, the suspect reportedly has mental problems that place his mental thought processes into serious question. Based on all of these factors, it may be difficult for the authorities to win a jury trial in the face of a strong defense of entrapment under New York and federal law. However, nothing can be concluded until the full scope of the evidence regarding these felony charges is brought forward and evaluated.
Source: The New York Times, "Rochester Man Charged With Planning Attack on Behalf of ISIS", Benjamin Mueller, Dec. 31, 2015