BOSTON – To prosecutors, Richard Reid is a terrorist who shows no remorse for trying to blow up a jetliner with 197 people aboard. Defense lawyers contend he is a troubled man who was trying to defend his religion.
The arguments were expected to play out on Thursday at the sentencing of Reid, who admitted attempting to blow up the Miami-bound American Airlines jet by using explosives packed inside his shoes.
He faces 60 years to life in prison.
U.S. District Judge William Young was expected to determine Reid's sentence and rule on a motion filed Wednesday by defense lawyers asking the judge to postpone sentencing on seven of the eight charges until Reid is given access to classified information they say could help him.
In the meantime, Reid's lawyers have asked that he receive the mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years on the charge of using a destructive device during a crime of violence. The other counts include attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
"Here, delaying sentence on the remaining counts serves the important interests of informing the defendant of evidence favorable to him and of preserving public confidence in the fairness of judicial proceedings," his lawyers said in their motion.
Prosecutors are asking for life in prison.
When Reid pleaded guilty in October, he said he was a member of Al Qaeda and pledged his support to Usama bin Laden. He also declared himself an enemy of the United States.
Reid was overpowered by passengers and crew members after they saw him attempting to light a fuse protruding from one of his shoes on Dec. 22, 2001. The flight was diverted to Boston. Prosecutors said the explosives could have destroyed the jet.
At Thursday's sentencing hearing, both Reid and people who were on board the plane were expected to be allowed to testify. Five people have asked to be allowed to describe the impact of Reid's actions on them.
Young earlier had turned down Reid's request to declassify certain unspecified documents in the case after prosecutors expressed concern he might somehow use the information to send coded messages to other terrorists.
Neither prosecutors nor Reid's lawyers would reveal details about the classified documents. But defense attorney Owen Walker has argued the documents could help explain Reid's motivation and give his family some peace of mind.
Walker asked that Reid be allowed to present the documents publicly at his sentencing hearing.
"The world hears the bad information ... but they don't hear the other side," Walker said.
During a separate discussion in a hearing last week, Walker said Reid, who converted to Islam about eight years ago, "is convinced that (the United States), by sanctions on Iraq, has killed two million children in Iraq."