Jose Padilla Sentenced To 17 Years

He was originally accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb. The president declared him an 'enemy combatant' in June 2002 with a stroke of a pen. He was held without access to a lawyer for over 2 years. And in the end, he was never charged with anything related to a dirty bomb.

But he is off to a federal prison, for agreeing to be part of some jihadist terrorist conspiracy.

Yes, Jose Padilla was sentenced today for what could be called a 'thought crime'.

He allegedly agreed to help alleged terrorists to kidnap and/or murder civilians of an unnamed foreign nation.

The US Attorney wanted him sentenced to life in prison. Federal Court Judge Marcia Cooke, a Jeb Bush and George W. Bush appointee, felt she did the right thing by sentencing Mr. Padilla to 17 years and 4 months in her Miami courtroom.

17 years. For a thought crime. No physical evidence other than an application form that Mr. Padilla filled-out to attend an alleged Al Qaeda training camp (strange but true). No opportunity to see any of the 78 interrogation videotapes at trial. No justice.

Lewis Koch reviews how Citizen Padilla was stripped of all constitutional rights, confined, tortured, and ultimately sentenced to solitary confinement.

I don't recognize the USA anymore. It has always been rife with injustice, but never as scary as this. Supporters of this new, evil empire claim that the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 'changed everything.' They are correct. This new kind of injustice is the change they brought. Those who attacked us have virtually won.

Padilla Receives 17-Year Sentence

MIAMI (AP) -- 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 initial allegations.

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 bomb'' allegations.

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 Afghanistan.

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?'' she said.

But she was also pleased he didn't get the maximum sentence. ''I feel good about everything. This is amazing.''

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 represents Jayyousi.

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 this country.

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.''