A trial is underway in Albany for a Ku Klux Klan member who allegedly planned to use a remote-controlled X-ray weapon hidden inside a van to vaporize Muslims in upstate New York and launch an attack on the White House.
Prosecutors are pursuing three charges against KKK member and former General Electric industrial mechanic Glendon Scott Crawford, who would face a minimum of 15 years in prison if found guilty.
The 51-year-old Galway first landed on authorities' radar in 2012 after he visited a pair of local Jewish Organizations, the Congregation Gates of Heaven and the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.
"He had a plan to help Jews get rid of their enemies. I told him we don't really have any direct contact with Israel," Congregation Gates of Heaven's employee Karthryn Laws said in court on Monday in reference to her April 2012 conversation with Crawford.
Laws told him to go to the Jewish Federation, where former head Robert Margolis said Crawford called to discuss a "black bag operation."
"He said he wanted to help Israel and he had off-the-shelf technology that would kill Israel's enemies as they slept," Margolis said during his Monday testimony. "I explained to him that we're a social services organization. We don't really have those connections."
The FBI began an investigation after the organizations relayed reports about their interactions with Crawford to law enforcement. On April 11, 2012, federal agents started to survey Crawford and eventually an informant known by the alias Dan Matthews recorded several conversations with the him.
In the recordings, Crawford called Islam an "opportunistic infection of human DNA" and noted that informant Matthews was just the third person in New York to know about his Klan membership. He also spoke with the informant about the ability to kill people with radiation, revealing the possibility for installing the weapon in a "Halal Meat" van and employing it against "human targets." He referred to the device as "Hiroshima on a light switch."
Crawford is accused of asking Matthews, "How much sweeter can it be than a big stack of smelly bodies?"
Authorities arrested Crawford and co-conspirator Eric Feight in 2013. At the time the industrial weapon was in early development, with a remote control for the device built by Feight.
Dr. Fred Mettler, the US representative on the United Nations' Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, was unfamiliar with the specifics of Crawford's plans but said it's unlikely such a device could work. Radiation can be narrowly beamed, as it is in some cancer treatments, but the accelerators require huge amounts of electricity, are not easily portable and any target would have to remain still for a long time.
"I don't know of any of these that you can use like a gun to aim at someone on the street," Mettler told the Associated Press.
Federal Judge Gary Sharpe decided the prosecution would be able to display the weapon to jurors during Crawford's trial, according to Reuters.
Crawford has been charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, distributing information related to a weapon of mass destruction, and attempting to produce, construct, acquire, transfer, receive, possess and use a radiological dispersal device.
In a US District Court this week, Crawford's defense lawyer Kevin Luibrand discussed Crawford's "strong political beliefs" and his conspiracy-theorist persona. Luibrand stressed, however, that his client's so-called plot was simply a "piece of paper and an idea" that undercover federal agents enabled.
"He had… a unique idea that he thought the bad guys could be destroyed by a device," Luibrand said, explaining that his client wouldn't have constructed the x-ray weapon had "criminal" sources not provided materials to make it happen, according to Albany newspaper the Times Union.
Eric Feight was charged with providing material support and in 2014 pled guilty for the offense, which could land him in jail for up to 15 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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