Ac­tivist had faced 16-count in­dict­ment, is to be sen­tenced to 2 years in prison

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Diane Pineiro-Zucker dpzucker@free­manon­ DianeAtFree­man on Twit­ter

Is­mail Shabazz, who pleaded guilty Fri­day in Ul­ster County Court to one count of at­tempted crim­i­nal sale of a weapon and ad­mit­ted sell­ing six il­le­gal weapons to un­der­cover fed­eral agents, be­lieved his ac­tions would “get guns off the streets of Kingston” and into the hands of African lib­er­a­tion fight­ers, his at­tor­ney said.

Shabazz, 61, a Kingston civil rights ac­tivist, had faced a 16-count in­dict­ment for al­legedly sell­ing weapons to un­der­cover FBI agents.

In plead­ing guilty to the lone felony count, Shabazz waived his right to ap­peal and is ex­pected to be sen­tenced to two years in prison and three years of post-re­lease su­per­vi­sion. The sen­tenc­ing, by state Supreme Court Jus­tice Richard McNally Jr., is sched­uled for 10 a.m. Jan. 10, 2017.

McNally was ap­pointed to the case af­ter Ul­ster County Judge Don­ald A. Wil­liams re­cused him­self in Oc­to­ber 2015.

In court Fri­day, Shabazz ad­mit­ted that, over the course of about a year, he sold un­der­cover agents six il­le­gal weapons from his home at 80 Prospect St. in Kingston. Un­der ques­tion­ing by the judge and pros­e­cu­tor, Shabazz said the weapons were a semi­au­to­matic as­sault ri­fle, sold for $1,000; a .22-cal­iber pis­tol and a .32-cal­iber re­volver, for a to­tal of $1,500; and a 9mm semi­au­to­matic pis­tol, for $1,200; and a 12-gauge sawed-off pump-ac­tion shot­gun, for $1,300. He said all of the weapons were in work­ing con­di­tion and agreed he would not pre­vail with an en­trap­ment de­fense at trial. Shabazz and his sup­port­ers have claimed en­trap­ment since his ar­rest in June 2015.

Jury se­lec­tion for Shabazz’s

trial was to be­gin next week.

“Mr. Shabazz’s role, as I’ve said from the be­gin­ning, was to get guns off the streets of Kingston,” his at­tor­ney, Michael Suss­man of Goshen, said by phone Fri­day af­ter­noon. The prob­lem, Suss­man said, is that the il­le­gal weapon sales “clouded the pur­pose he was at­tempt­ing to achieve.”

“What he was told by the fed­eral [un­der­cover] agents was that the guns were go­ing to Africa to aid in a lib­er­a­tion strug­gle there,” Suss­man said, con­ced­ing that Shabazz’s “no­ble” in­tent “does not le­gal­ize ei­ther the sale or pos­ses­sion of weapons.”

Suss­man con­tin­ued, “I do ap­plaud Mr. Shabazz for tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity . ... When you en­gage in il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, it may be for a pur­pose you be­lieve is no­ble, but it does not ab­solve re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

The pros­e­cu­tor in the

case, Robert Knapp, said, “The ev­i­dence in­di­cates that he (Shabazz) def­i­nitely was con­duct­ing these trans­ac­tions strictly for mone­tary gain.”

In June, McNally re­moved the of­fice of Ul­ster County District At­tor­ney Hol­ley Carn­right from the pros­e­cu­tion be­cause Carn­right had rep­re­sented Shabazz on sev­eral oc­ca­sions when Carn­right was a pub­lic de­fender.

The judge ap­pointed the of­fice of Dutchess County District At­tor­ney Wil­liam Grady to pros­e­cute the case. Grady’s of­fice was rep­re­sented in court Fri­day by Knapp, a se­nior as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney.

Heather Abissi, a mem­ber of Suss­man’s firm, rep­re­sented Shabazz in court on Fri­day. She de­clined to com­ment af­ter Fri­day’s court ses­sion.

Shabazz also de­clined to com­ment.

Be­fore en­ter­ing the court­room

for the 25-minute hear­ing, Shabazz and Abissi walked slowly around the block sur­round­ing the Up­town Kingston court­house sev­eral times. He wore a gray trench coat, a gray turtle­neck, dark khaki pants and a black skull cap.

There were about six at­ten­dees in the large court­room for the pro­ceed­ing at which Shabazz pleaded guilty.

Shabazz ini­tially was charged with six counts of sell­ing weapons to an FBI in­for­mant, nine counts of crim­i­nal pos­ses­sion of a weapon and one count of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of a child dur­ing the al­leged sale of one il­le­gal weapon. His at­tor­ney said pre­vi­ously that Shabazz was a vic­tim of en­trap­ment.

Had Shabazz been con­victed of all of the charges he faced, Suss­man said, he could have served “very sub­stan­tially more time”

in prison. “We spent hours re­view­ing all the ev­i­dence avail­able to us and con­cluded that this [plea bar­gain] was a fa­vor­able and fair res­o­lu­tion.”

Au­thor­i­ties al­leged Shabazz sold weapons to un­der­cover agents of the FBI’s Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force on four oc­ca­sions be­tween May 2014 and May 2015 in his home at 80 Prospect St. in Kingston.

Prior to be­ing re­moved from the case, Carn­right said Shabazz be­came a per­son of in­ter­est in a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2013, when in­for­ma­tion was de­vel­oped that Shabazz had re­cruited mem­bers of the Bloods street gang into the New Black Pan­thers Party in Kingston and was ad­vo­cat­ing vi­o­lence against po­lice of­fi­cers.

On Fri­day, Shabazz sup­port­ers con­tested that claim, var­i­ously char­ac­ter­iz­ing it as “li­bel,” “slan­der­ous,” “dis­proven” and “un­proven.”

Carn­right could not be reached for com­ment Fri­day.

“We re­pu­di­ated that at the time. We re­pu­di­ate that again. That played no role,” Suss­man said of Carn­right’s state­ment. “We found noth­ing in lengthy re­views of the case ... that cor­rob­o­rates” his client’s re­cruit­ment of Bloods mem­bers.

Shabazz, who has been chair­man of the Kingston chap­ter of Black Pan­thers for Jus­tice and pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent of the Ul­ster County Chap­ter of the NAACP, is a fre­quent critic of po­lice and has par­tic­i­pated in demon­stra­tions re­gard­ing at­tacks on black sus­pects by white of­fi­cers in other cities.

The case was in­ves­ti­gated by the FBI Joint Ter­ror­ism Task Force, New York City po­lice, the New Jer­sey State Po­lice, the Kingston Po­lice Depart­ment and the Ul­ster County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, au­thor­i­ties said.


Is­mail Shabazz is shown in Ul­ster County Court on Fri­day shortly be­fore en­ter­ing his guilty plea.

Is­mael Shabazz walks with de­fense at­tor­ney Heather Abissi out­side the Ul­ster County Court­house in Kingston be­fore Fri­day’s pro­ceed­ing.

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