SEATTLE – When a federal judge sentenced would-be millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam (search) to 22 years in prison last month, he took the opportunity to criticize the Bush administration's handling of the War on Terror. Now U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour may get a chance to see whether an appeals court found his remarks appropriate.
Prosecutors said Friday they will appeal Ressam's sentence because it was significantly lower than the 35 years prosecutors had recommended. U.S. Attorney John McKay (search) said the standard sentencing range for the crimes Ressam committed is 65 years to life.
When asked whether he considered the judge's remarks at sentencing appropriate, McKay said: "We haven't written the briefs yet; we're leaving all of our options for the appeal open, and that may well be one of them."
Ressam was arrested on the eve of the millennium as he drove off a ferry from British Columbia (search) with 124 pounds of bomb-making materials. Prosecutors said he had attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and was intent on bombing Los Angeles International Airport.
At last month's sentencing, Coughenour said the successful prosecution of Ressam should serve not only as a warning to terrorists, but as a statement to the Bush administration about its terrorism-fighting tactics.
"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel," he said at the time. "The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."
With credit for time served and three years for good behavior, Ressam could be out of prison in 14 years. He likely would then be deported or sent to France, where he has been convicted in absentia of terror-related crimes.
Ressam's lawyers were unavailable for comment, the U.S. Public Defender's Office said.
Facing up to 130 years in prison after being convicted of terrorist conspiracy and explosives charges in 2001, Ressam began cooperating with authorities in hopes of winning a reduced sentence. He told investigators from several countries about the operation of terrorist camps and disclosed the names of potential terrorists, the use of safe houses and other details.
Ressam's information was given to anti-terrorism field agents around the world — in one case, helping to prevent the mishandling and potential detonation of the shoe bomb that Richard Reid attempted to blow up aboard an American Airlines flight in 2001.