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Court: Terror plotter's term too lenient

MIAMI -- The 17-year prison sentence imposed on convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla is far too lenient for someone who trained to kill at an al-Qaida camp and also has a long, violent criminal history, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday, throwing out the sentence.

A divided three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a new sentencing hearing for Padilla, a U.S. citizen and Muslim convert convicted in 2007 with two co-conspirators of several terrorism-related charges. Padilla, 40, was held for more than three years without charge as an enemy combatant before he was added to the Miami terror support case.

The ruling affirmed the convictions of Padilla, Adham Hassoun and Kifah Jayyousi on terrorism support and conspiracy charges. The sentences of Hassoun and Jayyousi, more than 15 years and more than 12 years, respectively, were upheld.

Federal prosecutors objected in 2008 to Padilla's sentence, and the appeals panel's majority agreed that U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke made several errors in his sentencing.

Among the mistakes, the appeals court found, was not taking into account Padilla's training at the al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan. The judges noted Padilla's 17 prior arrests, including involvement in a deadly fight as a juvenile.

The ruling was written by 11th Circuit Chief Judge Joel F. Dubina, who was joined by Circuit Judge William H. Pryor. Dissenting was Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett.

Padilla's attorney, Michael Caruso, said he would use the dissent to either ask the entire 11th Circuit to consider the case or take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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