By ANDREW HUGHES
An American man who conspired with al Qaeda but later cooperated with government investigators was sentenced to 90 days in prison on Thursday.
Bryant Neal Vinas, a Long Island man, appeared in Brooklyn federal court where he was charged with several counts of terrorism. The al Qaeda recruit was accused of trying to convince terrorist leaders to carry out a bombing of the Long Island Railroad as well as a Walmart store.
Vinas pleaded guilty in January 2009 and already has served eight and a half years in prison. He could have faced life in prison but his defense attorneys said his cooperation merited a release from prison.
“We can proudly state that Mr. Vinas took the worst experience of his life and turned himself into one of America’s greatest weapons against al Qaeda,” said defense lawyers Michael Bachrach and Steve Zissou in a joint statement. ”He saved lives and he helped the Untied States government substantially dismantle what had been the greatest threat to our nation and to our Western allies.”
The prosecutors conceded that Vinas provided helpful evidence to use against the terrorist group.
Vinas was originally caught in 2008 on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, his capture kept secret due to the nature of the information he provided to U.S. officials. The terrorist organization welcomed him in 2007.
The son of two South American immigrants expressed sorrow in a statement to the judge.
“I would like to express my deepest apologies to the court,” said Vinas.
He also expressed optimism for the future: “I would like to turn a bad thing into a good thing.”