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Ninth Circuit: Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam's Sentence Too Short

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Millennium Bomber Ahmed Ressam’s 22-year sentence was not enough time to fit the crime.

A split 11-judge panel reversed and remanded Ressam’s case for resentencing, reports Reuters.

After attending terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Ressam planned an attack on Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for Dec. 31, 1999. He was apprehended approximately two weeks beforehand while crossing the border from Canada into the United States, reports Reuters.

Customs officials found explosives capable of producing a blast 40 times greater than that of a devastating car bomb in Ressam's case, according the Ninth Circuit opinion.

Ressam was convicted by a jury on nine counts of criminal activity for his plot to carry out an attack against the U.S. by detonating explosives at LAX. The advisory Sentencing Guidelines imprisonment range for Ressam's convictions was calculated to be 65 years to life. The district court sentenced Ressam to a term of imprisonment of 22 years, plus 5 years of supervised release.

The Government challenged the 22-year sentence as "substantively unreasonable." Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the sentence reflected an abuse of discretion in light of the circumstances, and that the district court committed a clear error of judgment in sentencing Ressam to such a short prison term.

In reversing the sentence, the Ninth Circuit noted, "Had Ressam succeeded in his plot to blow up LAX, it would have resulted in many deaths and injuries, substantial property damage, and enormous disruption to the nation's transportation system ... Many common criminals have been sentenced to much longer terms for offenses with much less serious consequences."

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