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‘Millennium bomber’ to be sentenced in Seattle

The “millennium bomber” convicted of plotting to blow up the Los Angeles airport faces sentencing on Wednesday.
/ Source: Reuters

The “millennium bomber” convicted of plotting to blow up the Los Angeles airport faces sentencing on Wednesday, knowing his decision to stop cooperating with authorities will mean more time in prison.

Ahmed Ressam had made a deal with prosecutors that would have resulted in a 27-year sentence in exchange for his testimony and information about other cases, but U.S. Western District Judge John Coughenour is expected to sentence him to 35 years because he quit cooperating.

The 38-year-old Algerian was caught on the U.S.-Canada border in December 1999 with nitroglycerin in the trunk of his rented car, and he told authorities he planned to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on the eve of the new millennium.

Ressam’s lawyers have asked for leniency and a shorter sentence of 12 1/2 years, but they admitted in a court filing on Tuesday that Ressam had decided not to cooperate even after a three-month delay of his sentencing.

“After much thought, he has decided against cooperating further,” Thomas Hillier, the public defense lawyer representing Ressam, wrote in a memo to the court. “He fully recognizes that his decision will result in a longer sentence.”

Other cases jeopardized?
Prosecutors said Ressam stopped cooperating in 2003, jeopardizing other cases. These include one against Rachid Boukhalfa, known as Abou Doha, a radical Muslim imam awaiting extradition from Britain to stand trial for allegedly masterminding the plot to blow up the Los Angeles airport.

Ressam was convicted in 2001. He initially provided testimony that was used in the briefing paper “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.,” which was given to President Bush on Aug. 6, 2001, ahead of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Ressam’s sentencing for his conviction on nine counts, including conspiracy to commit an international terrorist act and explosives smuggling, comes amid heightened security in the United States after the bombings in London’s transit system earlier this month.