Times Square Car Bomb Plotter Pleads Guilty, No Deal

Faisal Shahzad, the defendant in the failed Times Square car bomb plot, pleaded guilty to all charges today, apparently without a plea deal. A Government source says prosecutors will be requesting the maximum sentence, despite his two weeks of voluntarily answering questions.

A source familiar with the case told CNN that prosecutors will ask for the maximum sentence on the charges during sentencing, which is scheduled for October 5.

The source said there was no plea deal and no cooperation deal. That means that, despite the fact that Shahzad cooperated with prosecutors for two weeks after his arrest, they will not request any preferential treatment for him.

He faces a mandatory life sentence on one of the counts. [More...]

Of the 10 charges, six carry a maximum sentence of life: attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, possession of a firearm in relation to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempted act of terrorism transcending national boundaries, conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, and attempted use of a destructive device in relation to conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

Because Shahzad pleaded guilty to Count 3, Count 6 carries a mandatory minimum penalty of life in prison.

The New York Times reports,

The only question would be whether Mr. Shahzad would be seeking some sort of leniency in sentencing in return for his assistance, something his lawyers may be seeking.

But legal experts say that absent any sort of written agreement — and there may be none since he cooperated for so long without a lawyer — the government is under no obligation to push for leniency for Mr. Shahzad, who faces a mandatory life sentence on two counts.

Why no cooperation credit? Maybe because he refused to incriminate anyone else. ABC reports Shahzad told the judge aside from getting five days of bomb-making training, he acted on his own. DOJ probably wasn't happy with that and may think he's lying to protect others.

If the CNN report is right that one of the charges Shahzad pleaded to carries a mandatory life sentence, it seems like there's more to the story from Shahzad's point of view. Maybe the brain-washing that occurs during training has expanded to where recruits are taught that a life sentence is a badge of honor and as worthy to the cause as a suicide, so long as they don't give up information about others. If so, it seems the prospect of life in prison is not going to be a deterrent to future plotters, and offering a lesser sentence for cooperation will fall on deaf ears. If they are not only willing to die for the cause, but to serve life in prison, believing it to be an honor so long as they take the rap alone, the U.S. may have some serious problems.

Update: The CNN report is correct about the mandatory minimum life sentence. The DOJ press release states:

Counts Three, Nine, and Ten each carry a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison. Because Shahzad pleaded guilty to Count Three, Count Six carries a mandatory minimum penalty of life in prison. (My emphasis.)

The Government would have to move for a reduction for cooperation for Shahzad to get anything less than life. If he continues to insist he did this on his own after returning from overseas, while I suspect it's the truth, I don't see that happening.

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    Causal Sentencing (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 07:29:46 PM EST
    I doubt that the government believes (or cares) that a life sentence will have a deterrent effect. IMO, no leniency for cooperating and pushing for the maximum sentence is a combination of vindictiveness, and politics.

    Perhaps the government does not view (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 09:43:30 PM EST
    the defendant as having cooperated w/i the meaning of the guidelines.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#12)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 10:32:15 PM EST
    That is why it is a win/win=lose formula. Kind of like the war on drugs.  

    Wait a minute (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 11:52:38 AM EST
    In a post further up, it states this:

    It's testimony purchased with promises of leniency. Freedom is a commodity far more precious than money. It's a practice that renders our system morally bankrupt.

    So, we should show mercy and leniency for someone who cooperates with the government in this case, but not, say, in the Blago case?


    Of course it would have a ... (none / 0) (#19)
    by nyrias on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 08:33:43 PM EST
    deterrent effect.

    It will deter the bomber ever trying it again.

    This guy tries to blow up a lot of people. I don't want him to get out and try again.

    Plus, so there is a little vindictiveness ... so WHAT .. we are talking about someone who is trying to kill lots of innocent people.

    He would be lucky not getting the death penalty.


    What if the defendant (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 07:49:05 PM EST
    did not want leniency? His act was political, though also a crime.

    Getting leniency would undercut the political message no?

    Yes (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 08:14:35 PM EST
    that's why if that's the new "meme" to recruits, it's not a good sign.

    Good Point (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 08:20:23 PM EST
    And, as Jeralyn implied with her analogy of suicide bomber, there may be honor in a life sentence.

    The irony is that they are giving him what he wants, a win, win.

    But if stopping terrorism is the goal, it seem to be failing.


    win-win for us (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 08:37:24 PM EST
    Getting a failed suicide bomber or other self-professed bomber in prison for life is a win for us.  

    Inspiration (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 09:07:34 PM EST
    For an endless stream, of martyrs. If you think you won, you are deluded.

    huh? (none / 0) (#14)
    by diogenes on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:05:01 PM EST
    There is an endless stream of martyrs who are lining up to spend their lives in American prisons?  And it's OUR fault if they commit a terrorist act which earns a prison sentence because we "inspired" them?  By your logic, we should just release anyone we catch immediately.

    Win/Win=Lose (none / 0) (#15)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:51:01 PM EST
    He is a soldier. We are losing the war. It is a war that uses the media as a weapon. We are losing, big time, imo.

    plea = soapbox (none / 0) (#6)
    by lawstudent on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 08:48:09 PM EST
    Sounds to me, after reading what Shahzad had to say today, that he used the plea as a soapbox to get across his political message.  His quotes will be reported ad nauseam, internationally, and in major publications and on major networks - and Shahzad knew that.  


    "I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I'm avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die."

    Perhaps once he was caught, he saw no purpose in challenging the charges.  He knew that whether he cooperated or not, he would be in prison for life.  The U.S. has been foaming at the mouth since 9/11 to put people behind bars that they can point a finger at and say, "That's a terrorist."  He may have seen this as making the best (for his cause) out of a bad situation.

    You are correct about the soapbox (none / 0) (#16)
    by BTAL on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 07:56:55 AM EST
    That is exactly why KSM should not be tried in NYC or any other federal court.  He will not plead guilty and use the trial for the ultimate soapbox.

    Did not the plea avoid exposure (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 09:45:11 PM EST
    to possible death penalty?

    On what charge? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Peter G on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 10:13:44 PM EST
    No one died; the bomb failed.  So it's not in the category of intentional murder cases, as ordinarily required for the death penalty to be on the table.  I don't think the government wants a test case on whether "treason in time of war" applies to current circumstances.  That's the only potentially capital charge that is entering my imagination.  Did you have another in mind?

    No. Although the statute you cite (none / 0) (#11)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 10:20:56 PM EST
    could be relied upon, I suppose.  Given the over-breadth of so much assoc. w/the "war of terror," seems like pretty thin ice for this defendant.

    no death penalty charges are applicable (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 10:53:20 PM EST
    and they weren't charged. He faced five counts on the complaint and 10 on the Indictment. Several had life as the maximum, and one had life as a mandatory minimum, provided he was convicted of another count, which by pleading to all counts, he will be.

    Clearly, at this point anyway, (none / 0) (#18)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 12:15:36 PM EST
    there is no reason to believe that if he was freed he would not get involved in trying to blow people up again. Therefor I think a life sentence is perfectly reasonable.