Top charge gone from NYC terror plot case

June 15, 2011 10:39:34 AM PDT
The top charge has been dropped against two men accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in New York City.

Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including criminal possession of a weapon as a terror crime.

But a grand jury evidently rejected the initial top charge against them, second-degree conspiracy as a terror crime. It carried the potential for life in prison without parole.

The top charges now, including the weapons-possession count, carry up to 32 years if they're convicted. They're still charged with conspiracy as a terror crime, but in a lesser degree that carries a maximum of seven years in prison.

Mamdouh's lawyer calls the charges "significantly" reduced.

Ferhani's lawyer calls the case "bogus." She says authorities knew he'd repeatedly been institutionalized for psychiatric problems.

The Manhattan district attorney says the men's intentions amounted to an act of terrorism.