Sunday, June 13, 2010, 5:44 AM
This courtroom drawing shows Mohamed Alessa, 20, and Carlos Almonte, 24, who appeared in U.S. District Court in Newark June 7 on terror conspiracy charges.
If you listen to some legal defense experts, Carlos Eduardo Almonte and Mohamed Mahmood Alessa are just blowhards, a couple of New Jersey numbskulls who let their paintball trash-talking get out of control.
Despite their pledges to send Americans home “in body bags” and “caskets,” and to kill more people than “the hairs in my beard,” the Laurel and Hardy of the holy war didn’t have the guts or the I.Q. to pull it off, doubters say. The closest they had ever come to a jihad was the battle waged in their brains between testosterone and common sense.
But after being collared at JFK International Airport as they waited to board a plane to Somalia to allegedly learn how to kill, the two now face life sentences as would-be terrorists.
Does the proposed punishment fit the crime?
When captured, they had no guns, and there is no evidence any terrorist organization even knew they were coming, authorities said. Ronald Kuby, a lawyer who represented one of the men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, said if the deadly dreamers had made it to Somalia, “they would have wound up getting shot.”
Prosecutors, however, are right in pursuing life sentences. When it comes to terrorism, the only thing separating a wish and a deed is a weapon. And with high-powered guns easy to obtain and directions for homemade bombs on the internet, large-scale killing is easier now than ever.