Four Prosecutors Receive Attorney General Awards for Somali Pirates Case
Prosecution team secured 15 convictions, with multiple life sentences imposed
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Attorney General Eric Holder presented four Justice Department prosecutors with Attorney General Awards at a ceremony yesterday in Washington, D.C., in recognition of the team’s outstanding work in securing the convictions of multiple defendants for engaging in piracy off the coast of Somalia.
“With this important event, we come together to honor some of our nation’s most distinguished, dedicated, and deserving public servants,” said Attorney General Holder. “The hard work and impressive achievements of these 278 award recipients have inspired their colleagues at every level of the U.S. Department of Justice—including me. Their leadership has been indispensable in defining the past year as one of historic accomplishment in the face of nearly unprecedented challenge.”
“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to obtaining justice for victims of piracy affecting the United States and the international community, and it sends a strong message that Somali pirates and their land-based leaders are not beyond the reach of U.S. and international law,” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente for the Eastern District of Virginia. “I want to commend the prosecution team, along with our investigative partners and legal support staff, for their ground-breaking work in securing these important convictions.”
The John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation was presented to Managing Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin L. Hatch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph E. Depadilla and Brian J. Samuels of the Eastern District of Virginia, along with Trial Attorney Paul G. Casey from the Justice Department’s National Security Division, for their performance in prosecuting 14 sea-based Somali pirates and one land-based Somali pirate leader for their role in the capture and murders of four Americans onboard the sailboat Quest on Feb. 22, 2011.
These prosecutions resulted in two separate trials, one involving defendant Mohammad Saaili Shibin, followed by a two-month capital trial involving three defendants (Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle, and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar).
Shibin was the first Somali-based pirate leader ever brought to trial in the United States, and his case was the first time that U.S. piracy laws had ever been applied to a person who did not himself go onto the high seas to commit violent acts of piracy, but rather, facilitated those acts from the relative safety of Somalia. The prosecution team secured convictions on all counts and Shibin was sentenced to serve more than 12 life sentences.
In the second trial, all three defendants who were found guilty on 26 counts of the indictment. The district court subsequently imposed 19 consecutive life sentences, two concurrent life sentences, and a 30-year consecutive term in prison for each defendant.
These annual awards recognize Justice Department employees and other individuals for their dedication to carrying out the Department’s mission. The John Marshall Awards are the Department’s highest awards offered to attorneys, for contributions and excellence in specialized areas of legal performance.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER.