United States v. Ressam

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 03-12-2012
  • Case #: 90-30000
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Clifton for the Court, Chief Judge Kozinski, Circuit Judges Garber, McKeown, Wardlaw, Paez, Berzon, Bybee, and Murguia; Circuit Judge Reinhard Concurring; Circuit Judge Schroeder Dissenting.
  • Full Text Opinion

The decrease in sentencing of convicted terrorist, Ahmed Ressam, by the district court was "substantially unreasonable" taking into account his recantation of testimony, public safety, and deterrence. The district court failed to justify the variance from the Sentencing Guidelines calculation.

In April 2001, Ahmed Ressam, also known as the “Millennium Bomber”, was convicted on nine counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, for his planned bombing of the Los Angles International Airport. A few months after the jury verdict Ressam offered to help the government in it’s investigation in exchanged for a reduction in sentencing. The government accepted and filed a continuance of Ressam’s sentencing. He continued to assist the government until 2004 when he became unwilling to continue. At the hearing Ressam argued that the previously agreed to reduction should be further reduced due to the quality and usefulness of his cooperation. The government refused to reduce its sentencing recommendations and in response Ressam recanted some of his previous testimony used to charge other terrorist detainees. The District Court, taking into account the Ressam’s cooperation and the controversy surrounding the poor treatment of terrorist detainees including Ressam, reduced his sentence to 22 years compared the Sentencing Guidelines calculation of 65 years to life. The government appealed the sentence. The Ninth Circuit found that the district court did not sufficiently justify the degree of variance. The Court held that the reduction of 43 years was "substantively unreasonable", under the abuse of discretion standard, taking into account Ressam’s recantation, protection of the public, and deterrence. SENTENCE VACATED and REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING.

Advanced Search

Back to Top