News and Press Releases


July 27, 2005

AHMED RESSAM, 38, a native of Algeria, was sentenced today to 22 years in prison and five years supervised release, in connection with his plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in December, 1999. In sentencing RESSAM to the lengthy prison term Judge John C. Coughenour wanted to send the message that, "people who deal in terror should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in prison."

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, 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 welcomed the lengthy sentence. "But for the diligent work of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers in Port Angeles, this episode in our history could have had a very different and tragic outcome," said McKay. "We must not forget why Ressam came here in the first place: to spread death and destruction, to achieve his terrorist goals. Ahmed Ressam's fate is to spend most of his life in a U.S. prison having failed in his effort to kill innocent American men, women and children before September 11th."

"The apprehension of Ahmed Ressam in 1999 at Port Angeles signaled a
significant turning point in our nation's border security efforts," said Thomas W. Hardy, Director, Field Operations in Seattle. "Since that day, keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the United States has been the top priority for U.S. Customs and Border Protection."

Judge John C. Coughenour also complimented both government prosecutors and defense attorneys saying this case shows the world that our justice system operates with openness and fairness.

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 States 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, 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.

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