Earl Krugel, former Western regional director of the Jewish Defense League, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he plotted to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and a field office of Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista), a Lebanese American.
Krugel, 60, faces 10 to 20 years in prison under terms of a plea agreement negotiated with federal prosecutors.
Appearing in manacles before U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, Krugel implicated himself and Irv Rubin, the late JDL national director, in the plot, which was broken up by FBI agents with the help of an informant.
Rubin, 57, died in November after leaping from a balcony at the federal Metropolitan Detention Center, where both men had been held since their arrest in December 2001. Authorities termed Rubin's death a suicide.
"I hope that today's guilty pleas help to demonstrate to this nation's Muslims and Arab Americans, especially those targeted in these schemes, that we will investigate and prosecute terrorist acts directed against them, just as we investigate and prosecute terrorist acts directed at other minority groups," U.S. Atty. Debra W. Yang said after Krugel's hearing.
"The violent schemes at the center of this case are repulsive precisely because they were based on religious and racial hatred," she added. "The singling out of Congressman Issa, a dedicated public servant, is particularly offensive."
In a written statement read into the court record, Krugel said that he and Rubin enlisted a young JDL member to carry out the bombings. Rubin chose the targets and Krugel supervised the purchase of metal pipes and explosive powder, the statement said.
The JDL recruit, however, became an FBI informant and secretly recorded his conversations with them. Rubin and Krugel were arrested Dec. 11, 2001, days before the mosque was to have been bombed.
If he had been convicted in a trial, Krugel would have faced a mandatory 40-year prison term. Under his deal with prosecutors, he was allowed to plead guilty to carrying explosives intended for use against a federal official, which carries a mandatory 10-year term, and conspiring to violate the civil rights of mosque congregants, which carries a term of up to 10 years.
Outside the courthouse Tuesday, Rubin's widow, Shelley, their teenage son, Ari, and a smattering of JDL members carried picket signs proclaiming Rubin's innocence and denouncing Krugel.
"If you want to admit to committing a crime, so be it," Shelley Rubin said. "But you don't drag someone in with you who was totally innocent and is not here to defend himself."
Krugel's attorney, Mark Werksman, said he could understand the Rubin family's response, but he insisted that his client was simply acknowledging the contents of the FBI's recordings of the plotters.
Werksman said he hopes that Krugel will receive a total of about 13 years in prison when he is sentenced May 19.