Criminal Justice

11th Circuit Nixes 17-Year Term for Terrorism Plotter Jose Padilla, Says It Wasn't Long Enough

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A trial court judge reasoned that convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla, 40, would be too old to reoffend after serving a federal prison sentence of a little over 17 years in the Southern District of Florida case.

Plus, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke noted, Padilla had been confined under harsh conditions and had not injured anyone, among other considerations.

However, that reasoning was faulty, a divided federal appeals court ruled today, saying that the 17-year prison term wasn’t long enough to comply with sentencing guidelines and remanding the case for a new sentence.

“Padilla’s sentence is substantially unreasonable because it does not adequately reflect his criminal history, does not adequately account for his risk of recidivism, was based partly on an impermissible comparison to sentences imposed in other terrorism cases, and was based in part on inappropriate factors,” says the two-judge majority of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals in its opinion (PDF).

Among the facts the opinion cited to support this conclusion were Padilla’s al-Qaida training and what it described as “his extensive criminal history, which included 17 arrests and a murder conviction.”

Padilla was widely known as a suspected plotter in a so-called dirty bomb case. However, this accusation was dropped, notes an Associated Press article on the 11th Circuit ruling.

A dissenting 11th Circuit judge said Cooke did not abuse her “considerable discretion” and argued that, on the contrary, “the majority usurps the authority of a trial judge to decide on a sentence that was ‘sufficient, but not greater than necessary,’ to achieve the statutory sentencing goals” by overriding Cooke’s decision.

A lawyer for Padilla said he will seek an en banc hearing of the full 11th Circuit and/or appeal today’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Earlier coverage: “Judge Lowers Padilla Sentence Because of Harsh Confinement” “Terror Plotter Padilla Sent to Supermax”

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