The lawyer for one of four young men who authorities say planned to use homemade explosives against an upstate New York Muslim community said Tuesday he was acting on the mistaken belief that the enclave housed terrorists.
But as 20-year-old Vincent Vetromile was sentenced, the prosecutor and judge said it was the targeted community of Islamberg that was terrorized.
“It’s caused them to fathom fears that they may never have thought about in the past, and that is objectively wrong,” Monroe County Judge Sam Valleriani said. “It threatens the American way of life.”
He sentenced Vetromile to a seven-year term in exchange for his guilty plea to a weapons charge in June.
“There was a mistaken perception by my client and the others that the location that has been detailed in this matter was a safe-haven for terrorists,” defense attorney Stephen Sercu said. “Misperception, no doubt about it. But it was never his intention to attack people that they subjectively believed were innocent members of our community.”
Vetromile, 20-year-old Brian Colaneri, 19-year-old Andrew Crysel and a 16-year-old had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three homemade explosives when they were arrested in January, investigators said.
Islamberg has long been targeted with accusations, many spread on right-wing websites, of being a terrorist enclave. In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted of federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down the Delaware County community’s mosque.
Police and analysts dismiss the claims.
Colaneri and Crysel were sentenced last month to four to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to terrorism conspiracy. The youngest defendant, now 17, was sentenced to seven years.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Schwartz said the plot has left Islamberg’s approximately 200 residents permanently frightened.
“It has a much more far reaching impact than it might appear when you read the crime (Vetromile) pleaded guilty to,” he said.