Revisiting the Facts, After the Convictions
‘The Newburgh Sting,’ on HBO, About Bronx Bomb Plot
By Mike Hale, The New York Times
- Jul. 21, 2013
The case made — convincingly — by the documentary “The Newburgh Sting” is that the four upstate New York men convicted of plotting to bomb synagogues in the Bronx and destroy airplanes in 2009 were the fall guys in an elaborate, cinematic performance orchestrated by the F.B.I.
The film, showing Monday on HBO
, offers a competing narrative to the one presented at trial and in the news media by the government. So far, the government’s story is winning: The men are all serving 25-year sentences in federal prisons.
In a broader sense, though, the film builds a credible circumstantial case for the entrapment
defense. It does so through the standard techniques of true-crime documentary: interviews with sympathetic, cogent relatives and acquaintances of the four men; an evocative depiction of life in a depressed Hudson River Valley town; the canny juxtaposition of just-folks black and Muslim Newburghers with a succession of suited, white law-enforcement officials, politicians and television talkers, often saying things we can see aren’t true.
Two characters stand out. Alicia McWilliams, aunt of David Williams, one of the conspirators, is magnificent in her anger, despair and dark humor. “How could you come in our community and prey on these damn fools?” she snaps. “David should have only got five years for not having common sense.”