SENTENCING OF AHMED RESSAM, "MILLENNIUM BOMBER," DELAYED FOR AT LEAST THREE MONTHS
After a two and a half hour hearing, Judge John C. Coughenour decided today to delay the sentencing of AHMED RESSAM, 37, a native of Algeria, who was convicted in April of 2001 on nine counts connected to his plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in December 1999. In delaying the sentencing Judge Coughenour indicated he was giving RESSAM one last chance to fulfill his cooperation agreement with the government. Coughenour stated "It must be clear what I'm doing here, and I hope it is not lost on Mr. Ressam ... . we need to see something happen within the next few months." Judge Coughenour set a new sentencing date of July 28, 2005 at 8:30 AM.
RESSAM was arrested December 14, 1999 as he tried to enter the United States at Port Angeles, Washington. RESSAM had the materials for a powerful explosive in the trunk of his rental car. RESSAM was driving off the ferry MV Coho from Victoria, BC when Customs and Border Protection officers grew suspicious about his nervous demeanor. RESSAM attempted to run from federal officers but was caught. As officers searched his car, RESSAM kept ducking down where he was handcuffed in the back of a government vehicle. He was well aware of the explosive power of the materials he had hidden in the spare tire compartment of the rental car. In court today, prosecutors presented video evidence of the power of the explosives. The demonstration showed how just 1/40th of the explosive power RESSAM carried destroyed a vehicle.
After an 18 day trial in the spring of 2001, RESSAM was convicted on April 6, 2001 of nine counts: An Act of Terrorism Transcending a National Boundary; Placing an Explosive in Proximity to a Terminal; False Identification Documents; Use of a Fictitious Name for Admission; False Statement; Smuggling; Transportation of Explosives; Possession of an Unregistered Explosive Device; and Carrying an Explosive During the Commission of a Felony. Facing a possible sentence of sixty-five years to life in prison, RESSAM agreed to provide information to the United States and testify against others. The government agreed to recommend a sentence of not less than 27 years in prison. RESSAM's cooperation with government prosecutors ended in 2003.
United States Attorney John McKay said he respects Judge Coughenour's decision to give RESSAM one last opportunity to cooperate. "The government stands ready to work with Mr. Ressam to fulfill his cooperation agreement," but McKay noted "I am not optimistic that we will see anything different from Ahmed Ressam since he ceased cooperating more than two years ago."
Judge Coughenour interrupted the defense presentation expressing concerns about RESSAM's cooperation. "It strikes me that the things he is not remembering now, are things one would not forget," Judge Coughenour stated. He then asked Federal Public Defender Thomas Hillier to ask Ressam if he wanted to wait and be sentenced following two key United States prosecutions. RESSAM's testimony is needed for those prosecutions. After an 8 minute discussion Hillier announced that RESSAM would like to postpone sentencing for three months. Judge Coughenour agreed, but added that he would decide the value of RESSAM's cooperation and the impact it will have on his sentence.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI investigated the case.
The case against RESSAM was prosecuted by the late Assistant United States Attorney F. Jerome Diskin, Assistant United States Attorney Andrew R. Hamilton, and Assistant United State Attorney Steven Gonzalez. Both Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Hamilton have now left the United States Attorney's Office. The United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York assisted in the prosecution.
United States Attorney John McKay, First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett, Assistant United States Attorney Mike Lang and Assistant United States Attorney Robin Baker from the Southern District of New York participated in the sentencing hearing today.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington at (206) 553-4110.