News and Press Releases


August 26, 2005

U.S. Attorney John McKay filed notice in U.S. District Court in Seattle today that the Department of Justice will appeal the 22-year prison term imposed on AHMED RESSAM to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. RESSAM, 37, a native of Algeria, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour on July 27, 2005, in connection with his plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. The central issue of the appeal is whether the 22-year prison term is reasonable given that RESSAM faced a sentencing guidelines range of 65 years to life in prison. "Ahmed Ressam plotted to kill hundreds of innocent Americans. His powerful explosives put lives at risk on the ferry Coho and in Port Angeles. We believe his actions warrant a sentence above 22 years, and that the district judge erred in imposing the sentence," stated U.S. Attorney John McKay.

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. In court, prosecutors presented video evidence of the power of the explosives. The demonstration showed how just a fraction of the explosives RESSAM carried destroyed a vehicle.

After an 18 day trial in the spring of 2001, RESSAM was convicted 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 and RESSAM's defense attorneys agreed to recommend a sentence of not less than 27 years in prison, if RESSAM followed through with the agreement and provided full cooperation and testified against others. Instead, RESSAM's cooperation with government prosecutors ended in 2003. Two key terrorism prosecutions have been dismissed because of his lack of cooperation. Despite the earlier agreed floor of 27 years in prison, RESSAM's attorneys at sentencing asked for a sentence of 12 years in prison.

The Ninth Circuit will now set a briefing schedule for the appeal. Sometime after the filing of all of the briefs, the Ninth Circuit will determine whether and when to schedule oral arguments.

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.

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