Jose Padilla, a Brooklyn-born convert to Islam who became one of the first Americans designated “an enemy combatant,” was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison by a federal judge in Miami on Tuesday for his conviction on charges that he conspired to help Islamic terrorists around the world.
The judge also sentenced Adham Amin Hassoun, one of Mr. Padilla’s two co-defendants, to 15 years and eight months. The second co-defendant, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, received 12 years and eight months. All three men were convicted last August of conspiracy to murder and kidnap people in a foreign country, and of two lesser counts of material support.
The sentences, imposed by Judge Marcia G. Cooke of Federal District Court in Miami, were a blow to the government, falling far short of federal prosecutors’ requests that each defendant be sentenced to life in prison. “There is no evidence that these defendants personally, killed maimed or kidnapped” anyone, said Judge Cooke before announcing her sentencing decision.She emphasized that while she acknowledged the severity of the convictions, she questioned the range of the conspiracies and the defendants’ involvement.
Judge Cooke said the Mr. Jayyousi’s involvement in the conspiracy appeared to end in 1998, and Mr. Hassoun appeared to have written only one check to a suspect organization after 2001. She also cited letters submitted for the two that cited their community contributions.
Judge Cooke also said that the government evidence did not show that Mr. Padilla had graduated from a terrorism school. And she noted that she disagreed with the government that his being held in a Navy brig, as well as the harshness of his treatment, should not be considered in his sentence.
The three defendants were smiling after the sentencing and waived happily to family members as they were lead out of the courtroom. Outside the courtroom, Mr. Padilla’s mother was ebullient. “Praise the lord,” she said.
Ms. Padilla called the government’s case “insane” and said she was not surprised by Judge Cooke’s decision to department from federal sentencing guidelines and give her son more lenient sentence.
“He’s a human being and an American citizen,” she told reporters. “He’s not a terrorist.”
Jeanne Baker, one of Mr. Hassoun’s lawyers, called the sentence a defeat for the government, while Ken Swor, who represented Mr. Jayyousi, said the government has made “America less free.”