Sparks fly in Padilla sentencing hearing
Five months after terror-conspiracy convictions, prosecutors and the defense still battle over the evidence.
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But five months later, prosecutors and defense lawyers are still slugging it out over the extent to which the three men broke the law.
In a sentencing hearing now expected to stretch into a second week, US District Judge Marcia Cooke is officiating over an emotional courtroom drama unfolding between federal prosecutors determined to send the three men to prison for the rest of their lives and defense lawyers who say the government is hyping the conduct of the three beyond what has been proved.
In most criminal cases, once a defendant is convicted, meting out an appropriate punishment is a routine event. But there is nothing routine about the legal odyssey of Mr. Padilla, and codefendants Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi.
Padilla spent 3-1/2 years in military custody and was subjected to harsh interrogation tactics after being designated an enemy combatant by President Bush. The military detention was an intelligence-gathering operation aimed at breaking Padilla psychologically to force a confession while blocking access to the courts or a lawyer. When court rulings began to turn against the administration, Padilla was moved into the criminal-justice system and placed on trial in Miami.
Federal agents had Mr. Hassoun and Mr. Jayyousi under surveillance for more than a decade before the government decided to turn its intelligence-gathering operation into a criminal prosecution.
To make their case, prosecutors relied on a broad reading of conspiracy laws. The three men were accused of being members of a North American support cell providing money, equipment, and recruits to militant groups overseas waging what the prosecutors say was "violent jihad." Specifically the three men were charged with conspiring to murder, kidnap, and maim people overseas, conspiring to provide material support for terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists.
No evidence was presented at the trial linking the three men to an actual terrorist plot to conduct a specific bombing or other attack that might result in murder, maiming, or kidnapping. Instead, prosecutors presented a series of secretly recorded telephone calls that they said proved the three men had the necessary intent to help militant groups overseas wage violent jihad. They portrayed Hassoun as a recruiter in the cell, Jayyousi as providing money and logistics, and Padilla as the "star recruit."
Prosecutors presented a "mujahideen data form" that they say Padilla completed prior to attending an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. And they played the jury a tape of a CNN interview with Osama bin Laden – although there is no evidence that the three men had any dealings or connection to Mr. bin Laden.