(Updates with lawyer’s comment in the sixth paragraph.)
Oct. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A Guyanese man who admitted to his role in a failed plot to blow up New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and who testified against his co- conspirators was sentenced to four years in prison.
Donald Nero, 51, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry in Brooklyn, New York. Nero pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiring to attack a public-transportation system. He faced as long as life in prison.
“I am actually, really, truly, very sorry for the part I played in the early stages of the plot on JFK,” Nero told the judge before his sentencing.
The attacks, hatched by Russell Defreitas, a former cargo worker at the airport, were designed to blow up fuel lines and tanks, and ultimately “the whole of Kennedy,” Defreitas said in a recorded conversation. Defreitas and two other men were previously sentenced in the case.
The scheme was foiled in its planning stages with the aid of a government informant who infiltrated the group and recorded its conversations.
“The judge truly understood the depth of his remorse and his level of assistance, which was extraordinary,” Lee Ginsberg, Nero’s lawyer, said after the hearing.
Ginsberg said Nero, who has been in custody since September 2008 when he came to the U.S. from Guyana, could be out in six months or less with credit for good behavior.
‘Decision to Cooperate’
“Once Mr. Nero made the decision to cooperate with the government, his cooperation was complete,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Berit Berger told Irizarry. Nero told the government everything he knew about the plot, never minimized his role and voluntarily came to the U.S., Berger said.
After Nero withdrew from the plot, Defreitas threatened to kill him if he exposed it to anyone, the judge said today.
Nero testified last year that Defreitas was motivated to pursue the plot by his agitation over U.S. aid to Israel. Defreitas told Nero he learned that the cargo he put on planes at the airport included missiles bound for Israel, he testified. Lawyers for Defreitas told jurors that testimony in the case showed such cargo wasn’t loaded at JFK.
Defreitas, 68, a U.S. citizen and native of Guyana, and Abdul Kadir, 59, a former member of Guyana’s parliament, were convicted at that trial and sentenced to life in prison.
“Mr. Nero’s testimony helped lead to the conviction of those two defendants,” Berger said. Defreitas had pitched the plot to Nero, she said.
Abdel Nur, 61, a Guyanese citizen who pleaded guilty on the eve of last year’s trial, was sentenced to 15 years.
In May, a jury convicted Kareem Ibrahim, 66, an imam and leader of the Shiite Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago, in a separate trial. Ibrahim is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Nero’s case is U.S. v. Nero, 08-cr-621, and the main case is U.S. v. Defreitas, 07-cr-543, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).
--Editors: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn
To contact the reporters on this story: Thom Weidlich in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at firstname.lastname@example.org; Cullen Wheatley in Brooklyn, New York, federal court at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at firstname.lastname@example.org.