News and Press Releases

Prosecutors Will Seek to Appeal Sentence as Unreasonably Short for Al Qaida Trained Terrorist

December 3, 2008

AHMED RESSAM, 40, a native of Algeria, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 22 years in prison for his failed plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. Prosecutors had sought a sentence of life in prison for RESSAM, after he told the court that the information he had provided to the government to shorten his sentence was not true. United States Attorney Jeffrey Sullivan plans to ask the Department of Justice for permission to appeal the sentence as unreasonable for RESSAM’s crime.

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.

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, in early 2001, RESSAM agreed to provide information to the United States and testify against others. However, RESSAM ceased providing information in 2003, and claimed in court today that he was “mentally incompetent” when he provided the information. RESSAM asked the court to “retract all that he had said and to sentence him to life in prison.”

Prosecutors joined in the request that RESSAM be sentenced to life, noting that two key prosecutions have been dismissed because of his lack of cooperation. First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett said, “This court has shown fairness and compassion and he has repaid that with contempt. RESSAM manipulated this court to get what he wanted.” Bartlett pointed out that RESSAM was now trying to use his position as a cooperating defendant to help his fellow terrorists.

U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour reimposed the sentence he had handed down in July 2005. Judge Coughenour claimed RESSAM’s cooperation “proved to be invaluable,” and stated that he was “even more confident today, that this is the right sentence.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington plans to ask for permission to appeal the sentence to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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. At today’s sentencing hearing the United States was represented by U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan, First Assistant United States Attorney Mark Bartlett, and Appellate Chief Helen Brunner.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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