A Tale of Two JudgesYesterday we learned that JUDGE JOHN COUGHENOUR, a Reagan appointee, and a federal district court judge in Seattle, Washington, sentenced Ahmed Ressem, the would be Millennium bomber, arrested during the Clinton administration, to 22 years in prison, 5 already served. During the sentencing, Coughenour delivered himself of the following anti-Bush administration screed:
"Okay. Let me say a few things. First of all, it will come as no surprise to anybody that this sentencing is one that I have struggled with a great deal, more than any other sentencing that I've had in the 24 years I've been on the bench.
"I've done my very best to arrive at a period of confinement that appropriately recognizes the severity of the intended offense, but also recognizes the practicalities of the parties' positions before trial and the cooperation of Mr. Ressam, even though it did terminate prematurely
The message I would hope to convey in today's sentencing is twofold:
"First, that we have the resolve in this country to deal with the subject of terrorism and people who engage in it should be prepared to sacrifice a major portion of their life in confinement.
"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.
"It is my sworn duty, and as long as there is breath in my body I'll perform it, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We will be in recess."
In other words, the Judge was abusing his discretion to give a relatively light sentence considering the nature of the crimes because HE PERSONALLY disapproved of administration policies. This was his way of taking a bold stance and showing his disapproval publicly.
What courage! What judicial restraint!
Meanwhile, over on the other side of the country, today in NYC, Sheik Moayad, 56, a prominent Cleric from Yemen as the NYTimes terms him, was sentenced by Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. to 75 years in prison for conspiracy to support Al Qaeda and Hamas by seeking to provide financing for their terrorism.
This judge spoke about Al Qaeda's aims and methods and repeated the narrative of 9/11. A fact which the defendant's lawyer found "terribly unfair."
One of these judges is using the War on Terror as his personal platform to do battle against the administration. The other one is helping to fight the war by presenting the stern and unflinching face of justice to our enemies.
Compare and contrast, kiddies.
UPDATE: Another point of comparison to Judge John Coughenour:
Here are the sentences for the crew of miscreants at Abu Ghraib:
Charles Graner: 36 years old -- 10 year sentence
Ivan Frederick: 8 year sentence
Jeremy Sivits: 1 year sentence
Armin Cruz: 8 month sentence
Lynndie England: pled guilty, facing 11-16 year sentence
Although I think it is absolutely outrageous that Charles Graner, clearly the ringleader of this sadistic clique and against whom there are allegations of prison abuse in the US in his job as a prisoner guard before he was sent to Iraq, got a lighter sentence than Lynndie England, his follower.
[Hat tip on the Abu Ghraib sentencing: Hugh Hewitt]
Previous Posts relating to Torture at Abu Ghraib:
1) Walking Through Walls and Other Feats of the US Military
2) Considering Torture