Terror attack thwarted in Philly? Black Muslim planned bombs in Center City Mall as "domestic terror against white Americans" in 2003
February 22, 2007
One on trial blames another: His twin brother
By John Shiffman
Inquirer Staff Writer
Andre L. Henry - who stands accused of violent crimes against a police officer, two banks, two grand-jury witnesses, and eight fast-food restaurants - has offered jurors in his trial an unusual defense. The man secretly recorded in a prison cell confessing? Not him, Henry testified. It was his twin brother; they had traded cells in prison. "We figured, why not?" Henry told jurors. "Who would know?" A federal jury in Philadelphia is expected to begin deliberating Henry's fate this morning. If convicted of the most violent charges - including car-jacking and solicitation to murder - he probably faces life in prison. In closing arguments yesterday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella mocked Henry's assertion, and said the government had provided ample evidence that Henry doesn't have a twin brother. "His story is just absurd," Rotella told the jury. Federal officials say Henry is an extremely violent man. In addition to the charges in this case, he faces state murder charges and, according to grand jury testimony, was investigated for an alleged plot to detonate pipe bombs inside the Gallery at Market East mall.
The alleged 2003 plot against shoppers and commuters at the Center City mall had not been previously reported. Henry was never charged with terror-related crimes; he and his lawyer, Christopher Warren, have denied that any attack was planned. Jurors in his trial have not been told directly about the alleged Gallery plan. But during cross-examination, Henry unexpectedly began to talk about it, accusing Rotella of fabricating evidence against his family. "When the public hears about domestic terrorism, they're going to want to know what happened," Henry said. "Were these guys actual terrorists? What happened?" "You were arrested, Mr. Henry," Rotella shot back. "That's what happened." The government's best evidence of a terror plot is the secret recording of Henry made by his cell mate - an unredacted copy of which was reviewed by The Inquirer. At one point, Henry, who is a black Muslim, said on tape that the purpose of the blasts, timed for rush hour near the Market East SEPTA station, would represent "domestic terrorism" against white Americans. At another point on the recording, however, Henry said the purpose would be to divert Philadelphia police long enough to pull off a major bank robbery. "Prior to robbing the bank, he was going to plant 17 pipe bombs in the Gallery," the cell mate, Kreg Williams, said during grand-jury testimony. When Henry was arrested on a parole violation in 2003, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said they had found materials for making pipe bombs in his trunk. In the basement of Henry's home, agents said, they found a Glock pistol, a Fanchini shotgun, a Marlin rifle, a Romanian AK-47 assault rifle, a Point Blank bulletproof vest, $14,000 in pink-dye-stained cash, and photos of Henry and others holding weapons.
As Henry sat in prison on the parole charge, the ATF received a letter from Williams. "Henry's case is much more involved than the weapons...," Williams wrote. "I can wear a wire and get all the evidence on tape." Williams, a self-styled jailhouse paralegal, was fitted with a wire. Under the guise of helping Henry prepare his legal case, Williams got him to talk. Besides speaking about the alleged Gallery plot, Henry was recorded speaking about a car-jacking, a plan to kill a grand-jury witness, a 2003 shoot-out with a Philadelphia police officer, and two bank robberies. In a tape excerpt played at trial, Henry described one of the bank robberies: "I jumped over the counter, and I emptied the drawers, and I told the manager to open up the... vault." Henry is also charged with making straw gun purchases - using women who did not have criminal records to buy his weapons, including six assault rifles. In closing arguments, Warren reminded jurors that most witnesses against Henry had testified hoping to reduce their prison sentences. The lawyer also noted that authorities had failed to obtain incriminating fingerprints or DNA from a trove of evidence, including the cash, seized at Henry's home.
MIM: In this follow up article there is no mention made that Henry is a convert to Islam nor the reasons for his allegedly planned terror plot to plant pipebombs in the Gallery Mall ( a multi storied shopping center which also serves as a transit hub) and that the judge sealed the transcripts.
City man guilty of 27 crimes, all violent
He also was accused, but not charged, in a plot to detonate multiple pipe bombs in the food court at the Gallery.
By John Shiffman
Inquirer Staff Writer
A Philadelphia man secretly recorded on tape talking about a plot to detonate pipe bombs inside the Gallery at Market East mall was convicted yesterday of 27 unrelated violent crimes that are likely to send him to prison for life.
The verdicts against Andre L. Henry are significant, federal authorities said, because they represent a brazen case of a felon using women with clean records to make straw gun purchases, then using the weapons in a crime spree.
The jury found that shortly after the women helped Henry buy assault rifles, shotguns and handguns in 2003, he robbed two banks and seven fast-food restaurants, fired shots at a Philadelphia police officer and solicited the murder of grand-jury witnesses.
Henry, 29, also faces two decade-old state murder charges. He spent much of his federal trial wearing an electronic stun belt after U.S. marshals said they caught him trying to sneak a seven-inch homemade knife into the courtroom.
Near the end of the two-week trial, Henry testified that the person who confessed to the 27 crimes on a secret recording is actually his twin brother. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Rotella and Susan Fields presented evidence that Henry does not have a twin brother.
"His story is just absurd," Rotella told jurors.
U.S. District Judge Jan E. Dubois scheduled sentencing for May 24. Under the advisory federal guidelines, Henry probably faces life imprisonment.
Henry, who quietly stroked his chin as the verdicts were read, plans to appeal, said his attorney, Christopher Warren. As Henry was escorted from court, he said: "I'll be back."
John Hageman, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, said that the Henry case "truly exhibits the danger and violence brought to Philadelphia by these illegally purchased firearms."
"This case also shows that this is a regional problem," Hageman said. "All of the guns were purchased in Montgomery County."
Jurors in the federal case were not told directly about the alleged 2003 Gallery bombing plot because Henry was not charged with such a crime.
However, Henry brought it up unexpectedly on cross-examination. He made vague references to the Gallery and "domestic terrorism."
Henry's cellmate secretly taped Henry talking about a plot to set off pipe bombs in the food-court area of the Gallery during rush hour.
According to a portion of the transcript of the conversation in the cell - a portion not played for jurors - Henry said he was working with an unidentified man.
Henry: "He thought it was a good idea to plant the explosives, so I did some recon and scoped them out."
Williams: "Do you know where the explosives was gonna be placed?"
Henry: "Yeah... the Gallery. Around three o'clock and see how see how busy it is because he said that might be a good target."
The alleged Gallery plot was first disclosed in an Inquirer article published Wednesday. Information in the article was based on transcripts of the Henry-Williams recording and of a grand jury proceeding. Neither transcript was used during the trial, but the transcripts had been part of the public case file. Yesterday, in response to The Inquirer report, the judge sealed both transcripts.
Henry was arrested in October 2003 for a parole violation, shortly after ATF agents conducted a compliance inspection at Abington Gun Sports Inc. and noticed that a young woman had purchased two 12-gauge shotguns and three rifles, including an AK-47, in one month's time. The woman acknowledged that she bought them for Henry, who could not lawfully buy them because he had a felony criminal record.
Soon after, federal and state authorities searched Henry's home, found the weapons and more: a Point Blank bulletproof vest, $14,000 in pink dye-stained cash and photos of Henry and others holding weapons.
Williams, who was serving time for a parole violation at the same state prison as Henry, wrote to ATF agents and offered to wear the wire.
Under the guise of helping Henry prepare his legal case, the cellmate got Henry to talk about his crimes. Besides speaking about the alleged Gallery plot, Henry was recorded speaking about other crimes.
"The robberies of the fast food joints was to buy the guns... so we can actually pull off the bank robberies," Henry said on the tape. "The purpose of the bank robberies was to buy fake identification to leave the country, after we were gonna set the explosives."