Lawyers for Jewish Defense League (JDL) National Chairman Irv Rubin, 56, and Earl Krugel, 59, say that an FBI informant provoked the charges against the men, which led to a nine-count federal indictment last week. The two are accused of allegedly plotting to blow up a Culver City mosque and the field office of an Arab American congressman in Orange County.
Their lawyers said the charges were a "hysterical reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks."
If convicted of the most serious charges in the indictment, returned on Jan. 10, the two men could be sentenced to life in prison.
The 24-page indictment charges that Rubin and Krugel recruited a person, described as someone who joined the JDL in his teens, to bomb the King Fahd Mosque and the field office, presumably in San Clemente, of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista).
A third potential target was the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which is headquartered in a high-rise building in the Mid-Wilshire area, but Rubin allegedly struck this target from the list.
During the course of a dozen meetings of the three alleged plotters between October and December, the unidentified informant contacted the FBI and agreed to wear a concealed tape recorder during future sessions.
Rubin and Krugel were separately arrested on Dec. 11, after the informant had delivered five pounds of explosive powder to Krugel's garage, according to the indictment.
In separate phone interviews, defense lawyers attacked the government's charges.
"This is a classic example of an overcharged case," said Peter Morris, who represents Rubin.
The second count, which accuses Rubin of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against a U.S. government office, is "outrageous.... They're trying to raise this to the level of the Sept. 11 attacks," Morris said.
Rubin, who like Krugel, is being held in solitary confinement at a downtown detention center, is "very upset but ready to fight," Morris said.
Mark Werksman, Krugel's lawyer, said that "this case was initiated by, prodded along and overseen at every stage by an FBI informant. The informant provoked discussion about things that Krugel and Rubin would never have done on their own, if not propelled by the FBI."
Steve Goldberg, a friend and one-time lawyer for Rubin, criticized mainstream Jewish organizations, which in public statements to the press have already "tried and convicted [the JDL leaders] without a fair hearing. These are very serious charges and demand a high burden of proof."
The two defendants are to be arraigned Jan. 22 in a U.S. District Court. Defense lawyers said they would request bail for their clients after a judge is assigned to the case.
Rubin was named national chairman of the militant JDL in 1985 by its founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane. Since then, by his own count, Rubin has been arrested 40 times and has been investigated for murder and attempted murder. He has never been convicted of a felony.