Jose Padilla is sentenced to 17 years
Jose Padilla is sentenced to 17 years
By CURT ANDERSON, Associated Press Writer
7 minutes ago
MIAMI - Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with
al-Qaida to blow up a radioactive "dirty bomb," was
sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on
terrorism conspiracy charges that don't mention those
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia
Cooke marks another step in the extraordinary personal
and legal odyssey for the 37-year-old Muslim convert,
a U.S. citizen who was held for 3 1/2 years as an
enemy combatant after his 2002 arrest amid the "dirty
Prosecutors had sought a life sentence, but Cook said
she arrived at the 17-year sentence after considering
the "harsh conditions" during Padilla's lengthy
military detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina.
"I do find that the conditions were so harsh for Mr.
Padilla ... they warrant consideration in the
sentencing in this case," the judge said. However, he
did not get credit for time served.
Padilla's lawyers claimed his treatment amounted to
torture, which U.S. officials have repeatedly denied.
His attorneys say he was forced to stand in painful
stress positions, given LSD or other drugs as "truth
serum," deprived of sleep and even a mattress for
extended periods and subjected to loud noises, extreme
heat and cold and noxious odors.
Cooke also imposed prison terms on two other men of
Middle Eastern origin who were convicted of conspiracy
and material support charges along with Padilla in
August. The three were part of a North American
support cell for al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists
around the world, prosecutors said.
The jury was told that Padilla was recruited by
Islamic extremists in the U.S. and filled out an
application to attend an al-Qaida training camp in
Cooke said that as serious as the conspiracy was,
there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts
of terrorism anywhere.
"There is no evidence that these defendants personally
maimed, kidnapped or killed anyone in the United
States or elsewhere," she said.
Padilla was added in 2005 to an existing Miami
terrorism support case just as the U.S. Supreme Court
was considering his challenge to President Bush's
decision to hold him in custody indefinitely without
charge. The "dirty bomb" charges were quietly
discarded and were never part of the criminal case.
Cooke sentenced Padilla's recruiter, 45-year-old Adham
Amin Hassoun, to 15 years and eight months in prison
and the third defendant, 46-year-old Kifah Wael
Jayyousi, to 12 years and eight months. Jayyousi was a
financier and propagandist for the cell that assisted
Islamic extremists in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Somalia
and elsewhere, according to trial testimony. Both also
faced life in prison.
Padilla's mother, Estela Lebron, smiled at reporters
in the courtroom when the sentence was announced and
questioned outside the courthouse whether the Bush
administration had misplaced its priorities in
prosecuting her son.
"This is the way they are spending our money? Hello?"
But she was also pleased he didn't get the maximum
sentence. "I feel good about everything. This is
Attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi were also gratified
but repeated that they will appeal their convictions
and sentences, as will Padilla.
"It is definitely a defeat for the government," said
Hassoun lawyer Jeanne Baker.
"The government has not made America any safer. It has
just made America less free," said William Swor, who
The Justice Department praised prosecutors and
investigators in the long-running case.
"Thanks to their efforts, the defendants' North
American support cell has been dismantled and can no
longer send money and jihadist recruits to conflicts
overseas," Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney
general for national security, said in a statement.
The men were convicted after a three-month trial based
on tens of thousands of FBI telephone intercepts
collected over an eight-year investigation and a form
Padilla filled out in 2000 to attend an al-Qaida
training camp in Afghanistan. Padilla, a former
Chicago gang member with a long criminal record,
converted to Islam in prison and was recruited by
Hassoun while attending a mosque in suburban Sunrise.
Padilla sought a sentence of no more than 10 years.
Hassoun asked for 15 years or less and Jayyousi for no
more than five years.
Padilla's arrest was initially portrayed by the Bush
administration as an important victory in the months
immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks,
and later was seen as a symbol of the administration's
zeal to prevent homegrown terrorism.
Civil liberties groups and Padilla's lawyers called
his detention unconstitutional for someone born in
Jurors in the criminal case never heard Padilla's full
history, which according to U.S. officials included a
graduation from the al-Qaida terror camp, a plot to
detonate the "dirty bomb" and a plot to fill
apartments with natural gas and blow them up. Much of
what Padilla supposedly told interrogators during his
long detention as an enemy combatant could not be used
in court because he had no access to a lawyer and was
not read his constitutional rights.
Attorneys for Hassoun and Jayyousi argued that any
assistance they provided overseas was for peaceful
purposes and to help persecuted Muslims in violent
countries. But FBI agents testified that their
charitable work was a cover for violent jihad, which
they frequently discussed in code using words such as
"tourism" and "football."