There is a practical advantage to bringing the case in New York State court: state prosecutors said they were allowed to charge Mr. Pimentel with a conspiracy, even if he were acting with just the informant; federal law does not permit charging such a conspiracy. NyTimes, November 21, 2011
So federal law takes the view that if a police informant makes a plot with an individual-- and no one else-- the individual should not be charged with conspiracy.
That makes sense to me. I had always thought a basic principle of common law was that a person could not be charged with a crime if he would not have committed but for the help of a police informant. If that isn't a real principle of common law, it should be. It absolutely should be. Would a crime have been committed if not for the actions of the police informant?
The FBI declined to participate in the laying of "conspiracy" charges against Jose Pimentel, for various interesting reasons. One reason was the conspiracy bit. Another reason was the fact that the police informant and Mr. Pimentel liked to smoke a little weed together while they bounced around suggestions for terrorist conspiracies. I haven't heard this but I'll bet another reason is that Mr. Pimentel, like many of the other so-called terrorists arrested, charged, and convicted, couldn't conspire his way out of a paper bag without the help of his trusty police informant.
That's was passes for heroic law enforcement these days.
It should tell you a lot that Mr. Pimentel has become representative of the war on terror, in my view: we can't catch the real terrorists in spite of the billions and billions and billions of dollars we are spending, so we damn well better catch somebody, and damn well better make it look good.
Try to tell your friends that a man was charged with conspiracy even though his only co-conspirator was a police informant. They'll think you're exaggerating.