Convicted al-Qaida terrorism plotter Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen jailed for years as an enemy combatant, was handed a new 21-year prison sentence Tuesday because an appeals court determined his previous 17-year term was too lenient.
A jury found the Brooklyn-born Padilla guilty in 2007 on charges of supporting al-Qaida and terrorism conspiracy, which carried a possible life sentence. Evidence showed he attended an al-Qaida terrorist camp in Afghanistan before returning to the U.S. in May 2002 on what authorities originally claimed was a mission to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major city. Those accusations were later discarded when the “mission” was deemed only a sketchy idea.
Over Justice Department objections, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke originally gave Padilla credit for his three-plus years in harsh Pentagon custody at a Navy brig in South Carolina. The new sentence essentially takes away the credit for those years. She rejected prosecutors’ request for a 30-year term.
Cooke, an appointee of President George W. Bush, said she remained concerned that he had been held for so long without criminal charge, had almost no access to a lawyer and under conditions few U.S. citizens have experienced in this country.
“I was then, and am now, dismayed by the harshness of Mr. Padilla’s prior confinement,” Cooke said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier said the government may appeal this new sentence as well.