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Appeals court's unusual ruling: Give Jose Padilla a tougher sentence

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“Padilla poses a heightened risk of future dangerousness due to his Al Qaeda training,” Dubina said. “He is far more sophisticated than an individual convicted of an ordinary street crime.”

The court also concluded that Judge Cooke gave too much credit for the time Padilla was held without charge under harsh conditions in military detention authorized by the Bush administration.

In a 38-page dissent, Judge Rosemary Barkett accused the appeals court majority of “blatantly substituting its own view for the discretion of the trial judge.”

Judge Barkett said Padilla’s 17-year sentence was a reasonable punishment based on factors considered and articulated by Judge Cooke.

“The sentence imposed on Padilla should not be disturbed by this court because doing so simply substitutes this court’s sentencing judgment for that of the trial judge’s, in whom that authority inheres,” she said.

In addition to addressing the government’s appeal of Padilla’s sentence, the appeals court rejected a series of defense arguments, including that prosecutors should not have been allowed to show the jury a video tape of a news interview with Osama Bin Laden.

Padilla and two others were accused of being part of a North American support cell that sent money, recruits, and equipment overseas to Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups.

After a three-month trial in 2007, the jury found all three guilty. Padilla was convicted of joining a conspiracy in the US to “murder, kidnap, and maim” persons overseas.

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