Recidivism Likely: Jose Padilla's 17-Year Sentence Too Lenient

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 22, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals thinks that a 17-year sentence is to lenient for a U.S. citizens convicted of aiding terrorists. On Monday, the Eleventh Circuit sent a case against convicted U.S. terrorist Jose Padilla back to the district court for rehearing.

At trial, the government claimed that Padilla and his co-defendants formed a support cell linked to radical Islamists worldwide and conspired to send money, recruits, and equipment overseas to groups that the defendants knew used violence in their efforts to establish Islamic states.

The government posited that the defendants' efforts supported an international network of radical Islamists, including al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups such as Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), the precursor to al-Qaeda founded by Palestinian Abdullah Azzam, and The Islamic Group of Egypt founded by an Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (also known as the Blind Sheikh).

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that Padilla's 17-year sentence, 12 years below the low end the Sentencing Guidelines range, reflected a "clear error of judgment," particularly in light of Padilla's criminal history, which included 17 arrests and a murder conviction, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Although district court explained that Padilla's age when he would be eligible to leave the criminal system made his an unlikely recidivist, the Eleventh Circuit disagreed, noting that it had rejected unlikely recidivism reasoning to justify sentencing departures for certain classes of criminals.

In a 2-to-1 opinion, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted that terrorists are unique in their likelihood of recidivism, and that "Padilla poses a heightened risk of future dangerousness due to his al-Qaeda training. He is far more sophisticated than an individual convicted of an ordinary street crime."

Padilla was arrested in Chicago in 2002 on suspicion of plotting a dirty bomb attack. He was convicted with co-conspirators in 2007 of supporting terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

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