Sears Tower Plotter Gets Six-Year Sentence

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One of the five Miami men convicted of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to attack Chicago’s Sears Tower has been sentenced to six years in prison.

A U.S. District Court Judge, Joan Leonard imposed the sentence on Burson Augustin in a Miami court Wednesday. Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of at least 30 years, but the judge said he believed Augustin played a minor role in the conspiracy.


Augustin and the four other men were convicted in May on charges of terrorism-related conspiracy. They had allegedly plotted to attack what is now the Willis Tower in Chicago and bomb FBI offices in several other cities. Two other men were acquitted.

The men were arrested in Miami in 2006 following an FBI investigation. They were accused of seeking to form an alliance with al-Qaida during a meeting with an FBI agent posing as a terrorist operative.

The men denied being terrorists and said they were pretending to support al-Qaida in hopes of obtaining $50,000 from the agent they believed was an al-Qaida operative.

The five men were found guilty in the third attempt by prosecutors to convict them. Two earlier trials, in 2007 and 2008, ended with deadlocked juries.

The defendants were initially known as the Liberty City Seven, a name taken from the poor Miami neighborhood, Liberty City, where they met.

Prosecutors had hailed the group’s arrest in 2006 as a major crackdown on home-grown terrorists. The case was criticized by civil liberties groups because prosecutors said no attack was imminent, and that the men’s plans were more “aspirational” than “operational.”

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.