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Prosecutors Seek To Protect Witnesses’ Identities In Jose Pimentel Terrorism Trial

FILE -- Terrorism suspect Jose Pimentel appears in Manhattan Criminal Court. (credit: Getty Images)

FILE — Terrorism suspect Jose Pimentel appears in Manhattan Criminal Court. (credit: Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Prosecutors want to keep testimony of three key witnesses out of public view at the trial of a New York man charged with plotting terror attacks with homemade bombs.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office wants an undercover police officer and two informants to testify anonymously, and in a closed courtroom, during Jose Pimentel’s trial. Prosecutors say the three witnesses could be endangered if their identities became public.

A judge didn’t immediately rule Wednesday. He noted the legal bar for closing a court is high.

As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Jose Pimentel is accused of building three pipe bombs in the apartment of a confidential informant. Pimentel, who was arrested in November 2011 following two years of police surveillance, faces charges including weapons possession and conspiracy as terror crimes.

Pimentel’s lawyers are planning an entrapment defense, arguing that police deliberately chose an informant who was young, Hispanic and who claimed to be a like-minded jihadist who could smoke pot with Pimentel while getting him to agree to detonate bombs in the city.

Judge Thomas Farber was skeptical about the defense.

“That’s what police do,” he said in Manhattan Supreme Court. “It’s obvious. It’s not bad. It doesn’t make it entrapment.”

An indictment says Pimentel, a Dominican immigrant, conducted computer research on bomb-making, made shopping trips to secure supplies and finally started assembling a pipe bomb before his arrest.

Authorities said Pimentel, who also went by the name Muhammad Yusuf, maintained a website detailing his belief in holy war, or jihad, and told an informant he wanted to attack targets that included police cars and stations, post offices and soldiers returning home from abroad.

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