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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