A group of young minority men dubbed the Liberty City 7 were at the most advanced stage of becoming Islamic terrorists on the path to jihad, a government witness testified in their federal trial Tuesday.
Raymond Tanter, a longtime terrorism expert who teaches at Georgetown University, cited a recent New York City Police report on the 'radicalization process' to categorize the seven defendants' mindset.
They each face up to 70 years in prison on charges of conspiring to support al Qaeda to blow up federal buildings in five cities, including Miami, and Chicago's Sears Tower in an alleged insurrection against the United States.
The report, released in August, identifies four stages to Islamic radicalization: pre-radicalization, self-identification, indoctrination, and jihadization.
Tanter placed each member of the Liberty City 7 in the final stage as a prosecutor inquired about each one's status -- starting with the group's alleged ringleader, Narseal Batiste.
"Mr. Batiste falls into the jihadization, or fourth, stage of the radicalization process," he told prosecutor Allyson Fritz, before repeating the same response for the six others.
Then he added: "The defendants have organized themselves as if they are a military organization, with a definite hierarchy and leadership."
Tanter, who is being paid $1,000 for his court appearance and $75 an hour for reviewing the prosecution's evidence, pored over wiretaps, videotapes and transcripts of statements by Batiste and his followers -- including making a pledge to al Qaeda last year.
While the Sears Tower terror plot was allegedly Batiste's idea, the plan to destroy FBI buildings was concocted by a key FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda member who infiltrated his group.
He promised Batiste money for his religious group, which worked, trained and worshipped together in a Liberty City warehouse known as "The Embassy."
Tanter's testimony sparked calls for a mistrial by the defense when he ventured beyond explaining the radicalization process and offered his opinion about Batiste's intentions.
In doing so, the professor explained there are two definitions of jihad: "introspection" (making the world a better place) and "violent" jihad (expanding Islamic extremism globally).
"I strongly believe that he was talking about violent jihad, not introspection," said Tanter, referring to Batiste's recorded statements.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard denied a motion from one defendant's attorney for severance and mistrial.
On Wednesday, the defense lawyers will have a chance to cross-examine Tanter, who testified for only one hour Tuesday.