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10/24/2012

Failed 'Millennium Bomber' sentenced to 37 years in prison

SEATTLE — The Algerian native known as the "Millennium Bomber" was sentenced Wednesday to 37 years in federal prison for his failed 1999 plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

The case was investigated by the special agents with the former U.S. Customs Service's Office of Investigations, which is now part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the FBI.

Ahmed Ressam, 45, was arrested Dec. 14, 1999, as he attempted to enter the United States through the port of entry at Port Angeles, Wash. Ressam had traveled on a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, in a rental car. In the vehicle, he had bomb-making materials and powerful explosives. His plan was foiled after U.S. Customs inspectors grew suspicious of his nervous demeanor.

Following an 18-day trial in 2001, Ressam was convicted on multiple charges including: act of terrorism transcending a national boundary; placing an explosive in proximity to a terminal; using false identification documents; using a fictitious name for admission; making a false statement; smuggling; transporting explosives; possessing an unregistered explosive device; and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony.

Facing a possible sentence of 65 years to life in prison in early 2001, Ressam agreed to provide information to the United States and testify against others. However, he stopped providing information in 2003 and now claims that he was mentally incompetent when he provided the information.

Prosecutors Wednesday recommended a sentence that would keep Ressam incarcerated for life, noting that two key prosecutions have been dismissed because of his lack of cooperation. At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour acknowledged that Ressam was "highly culpable and took substantial steps to carry out a horrific crime." However in sentencing him to 37 years, the judge said a life sentence was too harsh and it was unlikely Ressam would be involved in another violent conspiracy.

In 2005, and in a second sentencing hearing in 2008, Judge Coughenour sentenced Ressam to 22 years in prison. Earlier this year the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for resentencing, finding that the 22-year sentence was unreasonably low.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Washington.