Federal appeals court rules 17-year sentence for Padilla too lenient

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that a 17-year sentence [JURIST report] was not enough for Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive], convicted [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges. Padilla and co-defendants Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi had appealed their convictions, and federal prosecutors appealed the sentence given by US district court judge Marcia Cooke. Upholding all three convictions and ordering a new sentencing hearing for Padilla, the court explained:

[T]he district court "commit[ted] a clear error of judgment in considering the proper factors." The district court attached little weight to Padilla's extensive criminal history, gave no weight to his future dangerousness, compared him to criminals who were not similarly situated, and gave unreasonable weight to the conditions of his pre-trial confinement.
Specifically, the court noted Padilla's 17 prior arrests and objected to a reduction of his sentence for the three-and-a-half years he was detained as an "enemy combatant" on a base in South Carolina before charges were brought against him. Dissenting judge Rosemary Barkett opposed overturning the sentence because doing so "simply substitutes this court's sentencing judgment for that of the trial judge." Padilla's attorney has indicated he intends to appeal for a rehearing en banc by the Eleventh Circuit or to the US Supreme Court [official website].

Jose Padilla has been the focus of much litigation since his arrest in 2002 [AP report] on suspicion of conspiracy to detonate a "dirty bomb"—a conventional explosive surrounded by radioactive material. In June, Padilla appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit [JURIST report] against government officials over his detention in a military prison, which he claims was unlawful, and that he was subjected to torture, denied communication with his family or lawyers, denied ability to practice his religion and denied appropriate medical care. In June 2009, a federal judge in San Francisco allowed a lawsuit filed [JURIST reports] by Padilla to move forward against University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo [academic profile; JURIST news archive], the author of controversial US government memos arguing that detained enemy combatants could be denied Geneva Conventions protections against torture.

 

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