News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Millennium Bomber Sentenced To 37 Years In Prison

Third Sentencing Hearing Following Lengthy Appeals Prison Term for Al Qaida Trained Terrorist

October 24, 2012

            AHMED RESSAM, 45, a native of Algeria, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 37 years in prison for his failed plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999.  Prosecutors had sought a sentence that would keep RESSAM in prison for life.  At the sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour acknowledged that RESSAM was “highly culpable and took substantial steps to carry out a horrific crime.”  However, the judge said a life sentence was “too harsh” and said it was “unlikely RESSAM would be involved in “another violent conspiracy.”

            “Ahmed Ressam is a convicted terrorist, who sought to kill innocent people gathered in a busy airport at the holidays.  Only good fortune and alert officials disrupted his horrible plot,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.   “This case demonstrates the strength of our nation.  We afforded a man who sought to do us the greatest harm the full due process of the law.  We will carefully review Judge Coughenour’s ruling.  Our duty is to ensure a just result for the American people.”

            RESSAM was arrested on 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 now claims that he was “mentally incompetent” when he provided the information.      Prosecutors today recommended a sentence that would keep RESSAM incarcerated for life, noting that two key prosecutions have been dismissed because of his lack of cooperation.

            In 2005, and in a second sentencing hearing in 2008, Judge Coughenour sentenced RESSAM to 22 years in prison.  Earlier this year the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back for resentencing, finding that the 22 year sentence was unreasonably low.

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 Helen Brunner, the Appellate Chief for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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