Archive | terrorism enhancement

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

Panel upholds 40-year prison sentence for Hizballah “sleeper agent” who did not injure anyone or engage in violence; Judge Pooler dissents on the ground that the Guidelines’ terrorism enhancements yield inappropriately high ranges that can result in sentences that, like this one, “shock[] the conscience.”

Ali Kournai was a “sleeper agent” working on behalf of Hizballah1 and the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO) in the United States and Canada for over a decade. In United States v. Kourani, No. 19-4292 (2d Cir. July 27, 2021) (opinion by Judge Cabranes, joined by Judge Kearse), the Circuit affirms the judgment below, rejecting Kourani’s challenges to his conviction following trial as well as to his 480-month sentence.

Judge Pooler agrees that “Kourani received a fair trial and was properly adjudicated guilty by a jury.” But she dissents on the punishment: Although “[h]is crimes were undeniably serious” and “[i]t is not lost on me that Kourani’s actions could have culminated in far more injurious results,” she explains, “[n]evertheless, they did not, and accordingly, the sentence imposed is disproportionately high.”

Here are the relevant facts as recounted by Judge Cabranes; whether 40 years is “unreasonably long” is the principal …

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Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Wholly Terror

United States v. Awan, No. 07-4315-cr (2d Cir. June 14, 2010) (Pooler, Raggi, Livingston, CJJ)

On this government appeal, the circuit remanded for resentencing in light of the district court’s refusal to apply the terrorism enhancement, U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4.

Awan was convicted after a jury trial of various offenses in connection with his efforts to assist the Khalistan Commando Force (the “KCF”), a Sikh terrorist organization based in India, the ultimate aim of which is to compel the Indian government to create a separate Sikh state in the Punjab region. From 1998 to 2001 Awan served as a conduit for funds from U.S. supporters of the KCF to its leader. Later, while incarcerated at the MDC on credit card fraud charges, Awan tried to recruit an associate to go to Pakistan and receive explosives training at a KCF camp.

The terrorism enhancement applies if the defendant was convicted of a …

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Saturday, December 6th, 2008

How Not To Seek A Change Of Counsel

United States v. Salim, No. 04-2643-cr (2d Cir. December 2, 2008) (Newman, Walker, Sotomayor, CJJ)

With the help of a cellmate, defendant Salim, while awaiting trial for the bombing of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, abducted an MCC guard and stabbed him in the eye with a sharpened comb, nearly killing him. He pled guilty to conspiracy and attempted murder of a federal official. Although Salim had originally claimed that this was a botched escape attempt, at the Fatico hearing, his story changed. He testified that he abandoned the escape plan as unworkable; rather his goal was to take the guard’s keys, unlock the attorney-client visiting room, and attack his attorneys so that they would withdraw from the case. Salim had indeed, on several occasions, unsuccessfully sought a substitution of counsel from the district court.

The district court credited Salim’s story; it held that the assault was …

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Categories: obstruction of justice, terrorism enhancement, Uncategorized

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