Appeals court's unusual ruling: Give Jose Padilla a tougher sentence
Convicted Al Qaeda supporter Jose Padilla, a US citizen once labeled an 'enemy combatant,' was given a 17-year sentence. In a rare ruling, a US appeals court called that too lenient.
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“Padilla’s sentence is substantively unreasonable,” wrote Chief Judge Joel Dubina in a 73-page opinion. It is rare for an appeals court to call for a substantially higher sentence.
At the time of his sentencing, federal prosecutors were seeking life in prison. They appealed the 17-year sentence.
Since his sentencing in Jan. 2008, Padilla, an American citizen who faced harsh interrogation techniques during years in military detention, has been held at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., considered the most secure prison in the country.
Chief Judge Dubina and Judge William Pryor said the sentencing judge – US District Judge Marcia Cooke – had not given enough weight to Padilla’s prior criminal history and had wrongly concluded that Padilla would not likely be a danger to the public after serving his prison term.
“Padilla poses a heightened risk of future dangerousness due to his Al Qaeda training,” Dubina said. “He is far more sophisticated than an individual convicted of an ordinary street crime.”
The court also concluded that Judge Cooke gave too much credit for the time Padilla was held without charge under harsh conditions in military detention authorized by the Bush administration.
In a 38-page dissent, Judge Rosemary Barkett accused the appeals court majority of “blatantly substituting its own view for the discretion of the trial judge.”
Judge Barkett said Padilla’s 17-year sentence was a reasonable punishment based on factors considered and articulated by Judge Cooke.
“The sentence imposed on Padilla should not be disturbed by this court because doing so simply substitutes this court’s sentencing judgment for that of the trial judge’s, in whom that authority inheres,” she said.