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July 27, 2005
Dafydd: Stupid Republican Tricks II (Update from Captain Ed)

Today, the Failed Millennium Bomber was sentenced for his attempt to "bomb LAX" (Los Angeles International Airport), a terrorist act that if successful, would have probably killed hundreds of people.

Ahmed Ressam was caught, as he drove off a ferry from British Columbia, by an alert Border Patrol agent, who found a "trunk full of bomb-making materials." As Hugh Hewitt said a few moments ago, "this guy is Mohammed Atta, except he missed!"

So what did this chappie get for this attempted heinous attack? According to AP --

SEATTLE (AP) - The man convicted of plotting to blow up the Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in prison. Ahmed Ressam got a lighter sentence than prosecutors had requested, reflecting his cooperation in telling international investigators about the workings of terror camps in Afghanistan.

In fact, it's really not even twenty-two years: first of all, the sentence includes the five plus years he has already spent in prison awaiting trial. In fact,

Ressam could be out of prison in 13 to 14 years with credit for time served and potential reductions for good behavior, but then will almost certainly be deported, public defender Thomas Hillier said at a news conference.

As Ressam is only 38, this means he could be out of prison when he is only 51 years old... not exactly too old to continue his jihad against America.

The judge who issued this travesty of a sentence was U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour. Hugh worries that he might have been appointed by Bush I, since he's "around the right age"... alas, it's worse than that.

Judge Coughenour was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981 -- and confirmed by the Republican Senate brought along by Reagan's coattails in the 1980 election.

U. S. District Court, Western District of Washington Nominated by Ronald Reagan on August 11, 1981, to a seat vacated by Morell E. Sharp; Confirmed by the Senate on September 25, 1981, and received commission on September 28, 1981. Served as chief judge, 1997-2004.

(From the Federal Judicial Center; search on Coughenour,John.)

Then, to add insult to injury, Judge Coughenour took the opportunity of his sentencing statement to lecture us on the evils of Guantanamo Bay, snarking about the fact that Ressam was brought to justice without having to use "secret tribunals" and indefinite detention. Yeah. Pardon my bluntness, but I see this insanely brief sentence and judges like John Coughenour as precisely the reasons that we need military tribunals and detention centers like Gitmo: because many civilian judges simply cannot wrap their brains around the fact that terrorism is not the same as carjacking or armed robbery... terrorists have already accepted death as the natural result of their attacks, and therefore they cannot be deterred, but only indefinitely detained -- or slain.

Just a warning, as if any were needed, that just because a judge is a solid Republican, appointed by the most "Republican" Republican president in decades and confirmed by a staunchly Republican Senate, doesn't automatically mean he can't turn out to be an ass.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt has Judge Coughenour's statement up on his site; here is the part that really got me thinking about impeachment (alas, not possible):

"Secondly, though, I would like to convey the message that our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel, or invoke any proceedings beyond those guaranteed by or contrary to the United States Constitution.

"I would suggest that the message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.

"Despite the fact that Mr. Ressam is not an American citizen and despite the fact that he entered this country intent upon killing American citizens, he received an effective, vigorous defense, and the opportunity to have his guilt or innocence determined by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens.

"Most importantly, all of this occurred in the sunlight of a public trial. There were no secret proceedings, no indefinite detention, no denial of counsel.

"The tragedy of September 11th shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism.

"Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. This is a Constitution for which men and women have died and continue to die and which has made us a model among nations. If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.

I rest my case for military tribunals: at least if they were secret, we wouldn't have to listen to boneheaded lectures by buffoons in black!

UPDATE FROM CAPTAIN ED: Not only do I endorse everything Dafydd said, I have to add my two cents as an addendum. Please remember that this case got highlighted by the Kerry campaign during last year's election as the model for handling terrorists, as opposed to the wartime approach favored by the Bush administration. This shows that our first instincts were correct, and that the only advantage of using civilian courts to fight international terrorists will be to highlight the damage that Presidents can do when they pick idiots to sit on the federal bench.

However, I will point out something that Judge Coughenour seems to have forgotten in his zeal to hold himself up as a Constitutional protector, as opposed to the rest of us police-state brownshirts. We captured this terrorist on American soil, mostly by luck and the sharp eye of airport security. Under most circumstances, that does mean that the civilian courts would come into play. If we had traced the terrorist using highly-sensitive intelligence capabilities, however, we would have to have exposed them in Judge Coughenour's court, making them unusable after a single prosecution.

Next, a point which Coughenour elides, the detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere were captured outside the United States, as part of our military operations. Those people not only do not qualify as civilian prisoners, they don't qualify as POWs. Even if they qualified for the latter, the Geneva Conventions do not allow us to try them in civilian courts.

It's all well and good to sit on one's high horse (or bench, in this case) and proclaim one's devotion to the Constitution. It's quite another to understand the proper application of law in wartime and the nature of the enemies arrayed against us. It comes as no surprise that Judge Coughenour displays his expertise at the first and his absolute incompetence at the second, especially given the laughably light sentence he handed to a man who planned on blowing up hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans to celebrate his religion and the new century.

Bride of Update: Hugh Hewitt has been getting information from the entire planet about the adventures of Judge Coughenour, and he has posted them as updates in the HughHewitt.com post I linked earlier; take a look.

Highlights: Coughenour found "that the INS violated immigrants rights to a fair hearing, resulting in new deportation hearings for thousands of immigrants;" he ruled that "the sexual predator statute [was] unconstitutional;" he gave a longer sentence to the leader of the Montana Freemen than he did to Ahmen Ressam today -- 22 years, as compared to only 22 years for the Failed Millennium Bomber... and LeRoy Schweitzer was not convicted of even a single attempted murder:

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour yesterday ordered ringleader LeRoy Schweitzer to 22 1/2 years behind bars, hoping to send "a loud and clear message to those who pass this hatred and ugliness around...."

Schweitzer was convicted on 25 counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge, illegal possession of firearms and participating in the armed robbery of an ABC-TV crew covering the Freemen.

Do I think Schweitzer was oversentenced? Nope, he deserves every day of that sentence. But do I think that someone plotting to kill hundreds of innocents in a terrorist attack deserves a longer sentence than someone whose most serious crimes are bank fraud and armed robbery? You betcha.

Evidently, because of what he was charged with and convicted of, Rassem could have gotten a maximum of 35 years. If Coughenour had given him the max, I would have been disappointed that Rassem couldn't have gotten more, but I would not have held it against the judge; judges cannot impose arbitrarily draconian prison terms -- they are bound by the legal maximums.

But the good judge gave this insect only 63% of what he could have given... and with all the time off and time served, he'll actually be out after serving less than 40% of what he could have been required to serve. This is not simply wrong... it is unconscionable.

If this is the model that Kerry and the pirates have for fighting the war on terrorism, then it's no wonder they've been frozen out of power ever since 9/11.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Dafydd at July 27, 2005 5:21 PM

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