Patterico's Pontifications

12/4/2008

Terrorist Who Wanted to Bomb LAX Stops Cooperating with Feds, Is Punished with Same Sentence

Filed under: General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 6:38 am



Ahmed Ressam has stopped cooperating with the feds, the Los Angeles Times reports. His change of heart has had serious consequences:

On Wednesday, Ressam told the court he had been pressured into providing testimony in two other high-profile cases — one involving Abu Doha, identified by U.S. authorities as one of Europe’s highest-ranking Al Qaeda figures, and Samir Ait Mohamed, who allegedly helped Ressam in the Los Angeles bombing conspiracy.

. . . .

Ressam’s retreat forced the U.S. to abandon prosecution of Abu Doha and Mohamed, despite the fact that Britain and Canada had held the men in custody at American officials’ request. British authorities shifted Abu Doha’s detention to house in July.

“Our government was put in a horrible situation,” said Mark Bartlett, first assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle. “We had gone to two of our closest allies, Great Britain and Canada, and said . . . arrest these people, keep them in custody, and we promise we will bring them to the United States. . . . We will hold them accountable. And then we have to go back and say we are unable to try them.”

So prosecutors went to court and sought an increase in his sentence — since his plea bargain had required him to cooperate.

Ressam told the court: “Sentence me to life in prison, or anything you wish. I will have no objection to your sentence.”

Given that the judge didn’t change the sentence, he should definitely have no objection.

But I do.

9 Responses to “Terrorist Who Wanted to Bomb LAX Stops Cooperating with Feds, Is Punished with Same Sentence”

  1. If nothing else, you’d think a judge might understand the concept of a contract, and what it means to be in breach thereof. But that would conflict with the principle that judges are free to ignore the law when it suits them, even if it has the effect of endangering public safety and benefitting a dangerous criminal.

    Cooperate with the Feds — or not, Mr. Ressam, the kindly judge will still give you the benefit of the bargain you’ve rejected.

    Judges like this do more to undermine the public’s trust in the legal system than unethical, shyster lawyers. The public expects lawyers to do crazy things; they expect more from the ostensibly wise and impartial people wearing the black robes.

    Appalling.

    Mike Lief (633855)

  2. In a perfect world, and one where the Judicial Minders (Congress) were interested in the security of the Nation, and the integrity of the judicial system, this judge would be impeached for his gross corruption of the judicial process.

    But, then again, we’re talking about Congress here, where it’s more important to beat-up some execs from the auto industry for their use of private air transportation when they could have taken the symbolic route instead, flagellating themselves before their Congressional betters by coming to the Hill via Greyhound.

    If we have not already, we will get the government we deserve.

    Another Drew (410846)

  3. Lots of things going on here:

    First of all, pre-Booker or post-Booker, how many years is failure to cooperate with the government worth? Two maybe, not twenty-three or life.

    Second, cooperation is only one factor in sentencing. The primary consideration are the protection of society and the interests of justice. A judge should not sell out either in order to give the government a cooperative snitch. And I imagine, that despite the government’s representations, this Reagan-appointed judge made that determination when he imposed the original sentence.

    Third, the judge could not have been happy with the prosecution who demonstrated both incompetence (“Control your witness, counsel”) and petulant vindictiveness.

    nk (5fa892)

  4. nk, how many years its worth I think has to depend upon how crucial the cooperation was going to be to bring other bad guys to justice. In this case certainly more than 2 years, but maybe not life, maybe something like 10 years.

    Doing nothing and leaving the sentence the same is a huge mistake and this Judge should be ashamed and impeached. Now all the other cooperating felons will think twice about carrying through with their cooperation, I mean, if the sentence stays the same, why bother?

    This Judge is an ^&%^%^ing idiot! Gives Judges and lawyers a bad name and decreases the people’s support for the judicial system. What a shame.

    J. Raymond Wright (d83ab3)

  5. nk wrote:

    [C]ooperation is only one factor in sentencing. The primary consideration are the protection of society and the interests of justice. A judge should not sell out either in order to give the government a cooperative snitch.

    You speak as if “protect[ing] society and the interests of justice” and “giv[ing] the government a cooperative snitch” are mutually exclusive. Was that your intent?

    L.N. Smithee (47463a)

  6. You speak as if “protect[ing] society and the interests of justice” and “giv[ing] the government a cooperative snitch” are mutually exclusive. Was that your intent?

    No. The judge should weigh the seriousness of the crime and the dangerousness of the defendant and do justice independently from the agenda of the prosecutor. A judge should not take it easy on a defendant who he thinks merits a certain sentence just because a prosecutor wants the defendant’s cooperation. Neither should he be harsher than the crime and the defendant’s background deserve in order to force the defendant to cooperate. The judge is neither the agent nor the partner of the prosecutor.

    nk (5fa892)

  7. I do, too, Patrick, and also with this (from the linked story):

    “Noting that the case comes ‘as our nation prepares for a new chapter,’ [Judge] Coughenour said Ressam had provided … ”

    The judge strongly implies that part of the reason for this leniency is because we’re about to change presidents?!

    Outrageous.

    Mitch (890cbf)

  8. the judge is just being “compassionate.” I’m sure the terrorists will take care to spare him in the next terror attack. Or perhaps he would just as well like to die a martyr to his fetishistic sense of morality.

    Patricia (94c68d)

  9. That’s what we get for trusting an LA Times story. The trial judge had heard the exact same arguments when he imposed the original sentence. The defendant had already stopped cooperating. The government was not tricked after the fact. From the Court of Appeals opinion:

    Ressam was exposed to a sentence of some 65 years, but after trial entered into a cooperation agreement with the United States according to which he would not seek, and the government would not recommend, a sentence of less than 27 years. Although he provided testimony and participated in numerous debriefings, Ressam ultimately stopped cooperating. As a result, the government recommended a sentence of 35 years. Ressam argued for a sentence of 120 months, and the district court imposed a sentence of 22 years. The government appeals this sentence as unreasonable in light of Ressam’s failure to continue to assist the government and the district court’s lack of explanation for what the government believes is an extreme departure. Given reversal of the conviction on Count 9 and its corresponding mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, we vacate the entire sentence so that the district court can resentence in light of this decision and developments in the law of sentencing in the meantime.

    And if it’s not vindictiveness to ask for a sentence of 35 years prior to appeal and then ask for 45 to life after remand, I don’t know what it is.

    nk (5fa892)


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