CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the shadow of 9/11, the 155-year sentence handed down to Hezbollah supporter Mohamad Hammoud was considered a milestone in the fight against terrorism and a strong warning to people who sent money to support militant groups.
A federal judge knocked more than a century off that sentence yesterday, saying it turned out to be “grossly disproportionate’’ for the first man convicted under a key terror-fighting legal strategy.
Instead, Judge Graham Mullen ordered Hammoud to serve 30 years in prison for smuggling cigarettes and sending $3,500 of the profits to Hezbollah. The new sentence means the 37-year-old from Lebanon will spend an additional two decades in prison, then probably be deported to his homeland.
“The crime represented here was not as serious as other terrorism cases,’’ Mullen said.
His attorneys wanted Hammoud to walk out of the courtroom with a sentence of the more than 10 years he has already served on charges that include providing material support to terrorists. They contend he sent the money to a wing of Hezbollah that helps provide Middle Eastern communities with clean water and good housing, not the military wing labeled terrorists by the United States government for numerous attacks on Israel.
But the judge agreed in part with Assistant US Attorney David Brown, who said Hammoud was indoctrinated with an anti-American philosophy as a youth and was determined to do his part to harm the United States.
Hammoud was first denied entry to the United States, then used marriage fraud to make his way to the country. He settled in Charlotte’s Lebanese population, said Brown, who suggested Hammoud was caught before he could plan something more sinister than raising money.