|The court said 22 years not enough for Ahmed Ressam.|
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court said yesterday that a 22-year prison sentence was too lenient for an Al Qaeda-trained terrorist convicted of plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport at the end of the millennium.
A divided three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Ahmed Ressam, 41, deserved a much longer prison term because he had reneged on a deal to cooperate with terrorism investigators around the world.
US prosecutors said Ressam’s change of heart after two years of cooperation compromised at least two terrorist cases in the United States, resulting in charges being dropped.
“We are gratified that the Court of Appeals recognized the importance of public safety at sentencing and that Mr. Ressam remains a threat to the public,’’ said US Attorney Jenny A. Durkan of Seattle.
Ressam’s public defender, Thomas W. Hillier II, declined comment.
The appeals court also took the rare step of removing from the case the Seattle trial judge who imposed the initial sentence because his “previously expressed views appear too entrenched to allow for the appearance of fairness.’’
Federal guidelines suggest Ressam should receive a prison sentence of 65 years to life after a jury convicted him of attempting to smuggle explosives meant across the Canada border in a rental car in December 1999.
Prosecutors argued for life in prison during a 2008 hearing held after Ressam recanted his cooperation and insisted that lawyers and prosecutors had badgered him into making false allegations against other alleged terrorists.
“Sentence me to life in prison or anything you wish,’’ Ressam told the judge.
“I will have no objection to your sentence.’’
The US Supreme Court ordered the trial judge to impose a new sentence based on the federal guidelines.
Instead, US District Court Judge John Coughenour sentenced Ressam to 22 years in prison, citing his two years of cooperation, and said Ressam’s “life history and personal characteristics support favorable sentencing consideration.’’