MIAMI – After months of delay, a South Florida judge on Wednesday will begin examining the issues surrounding the resentencing of convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla.
Padilla, 43, was originally sentenced in 2008 to 17 years in prison for terrorism support and conspiracy convictions.
This case is back before Miami U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke because the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the sentence was too lenient, given Padilla's lengthy criminal record as a Chicago gang member and terrorist training at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan.
"He is far more sophisticated than an individual convicted of an ordinary street crime," the appeals judges said.
Since the appeals court's ruling, the case has been in limbo. The Wednesday hearing could finally set the stage for a resentencing date. Prosecutors originally sought a life sentence but have not said whether they will ask for that term again.
Prosecutors did say in a Feb. 5 filing that the appeals court decision should not allow for a re-opening of the case beyond the sentencing issues or to discuss such issues as Padilla's treatment at the so-called "Supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colo. He is currently house at a Miami federal detention center.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen who became a Muslim convert in prison, was arrested by the FBI in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport in what authorities at the time said was an al-Qaida plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city.
Padilla was held in solitary confinement at a Navy brig in South Carolina for more than three years without criminal charge as an enemy combatant. Just as challenges to his confinement were ripe for U.S. Supreme Court to consider, the Justice Department under President George W. Bush added him to an existing Miami terrorism conspiracy indictment and the "dirty bomb" allegations were dropped.
Over the objections of prosecutors, Cooke gave in her original sentence gave Padilla credit for his three years held as an enemy combatant. The appeals court found that decision improperly reduced Padilla's sentence as well.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt