Bomber gets life in prison for New York, New Jersey attacks

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, a naturalized US citizen born in Afghanistan, was told by the judge he deserved multiple life prison terms. (AP)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Bomber gets life in prison for New York, New Jersey attacks

NEW YORK: A New Jersey man who set off small bombs in two states, including a pressure cooker device that blasted shrapnel across a New York City block, was sentenced Tuesday to multiple terms of life in prison by a judge who repeatedly called it a miracle nobody was killed.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi, a naturalized US citizen born in Afghanistan, was criticized by a prosecutor for failing to show remorse and was scolded by a victim for not apologizing to the 30 people he injured.
US District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan said it was hard to reconcile the “reasonable enough” man he saw in court with the terrorist who tried to kill as many people as he could when he left his home early the morning of September 17, 2016, with two pressure-cooker explosives and a bag full of smaller bombs.
“You sound like most people and yet your actions are totally at odds with your voice,” Berman said.
“We saw videos,” he said, referencing multiple videos at his fall trial that showed Rahimi dragging bombs in two suitcases and a backpack through Manhattan streets, setting one down a half hour before it exploded in the upscale Chelsea neighborhood and another a few blocks away that was discovered and disabled before it could explode.
“It’s really hard to square the way you appear in court to that other behavior,” Berman said.
Regardless, the judge said, Rahimi deserved multiple life prison terms. One life term was mandatory but the judge exercised his discretion by imposing life sentences for counts that Rahimi’s defense lawyer said deserved only a 15-year sentence. He also ordered $562,803 in restitution.
Berman called Rahimi, 30, a “clear and present danger” and said it was too big a risk not to impose a life sentence, especially after Rahimi offered “not an ounce of justification” for his crimes.
The Chelsea explosion happened just hours after a small pipe bomb exploded along a Marine Corps road race in Seaside Park, New Jersey, frightening participants but injuring no one.
The bombings triggered a two-day manhunt that ended in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey. Rahimi was shot several times but survived. Police officers also were injured.
Given a chance to speak, Rahimi, shackled at the ankles, portrayed himself as a victim, saying he came to America as a 7-year-old boy with no hatred for anyone and was raised by a father in a household where there was no mention of what his father experienced during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
He described how his father went to law enforcement on multiple occasions to report suspicious behavior he had seen in his son, but ultimately felt let down.
“I don’t harbor hate for anyone,” Rahimi said before describing how he believed law enforcement targeted him once he became a practicing Muslim.
Assistant US Attorney Shawn Crowley immediately followed Rahimi, saying he had just “blamed everyone else” after causing so much destruction through crimes “fueled by hate.”
“He has shown no remorse,” Crowley said. “He’s proud of what he has done.”
She described Rahimi’s efforts to radicalize fellow prisoners at the federal jail in New York where he has been imprisoned since his arrest.
Rahimi, prosecutors said, gave inmates copies of terrorist propaganda and jihadist materials, including speeches and lectures by Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric who inspired attacks on America and was killed in a US airstrike in September 2011.
Rahimi also allowed some inmates to view materials on his laptop or provided electronic copies as he spread “The Book of Jihad,” bomb-making instructions and various issues of a propaganda magazine.
Defense attorney Xavier Donaldson called it ironic that his client had once aspired to be a police officer and worked as a security guard after studying criminal justice at a community college.
He urged a sentence not based on what people think terrorists might inspire or the fear they may cause.
After the sentence was announced, Berman invited several victims watching the proceedings to speak.
Pauline Nelson, 48, of Brooklyn, stepped to the podium. She was hospitalized when the car she was driving was jolted by the explosion. She’s still being treated for muscle spasms in her back.
“You never apologized to anyone in the courtroom,” she said, staring at the bearded Rahimi, who sat at the defense table, shackles on his ankles. “You have no remorse for what you did.”


Suburban women wrestle with Kavanaugh allegation

Linda Gumeson, 70, said she couldn’t believe allegations that were more than three decades old were being taken seriously today. (AP)
Updated 7 min 5 sec ago
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Suburban women wrestle with Kavanaugh allegation

  • I don’t think somebody as educated as she is is going to make this up, says college professor
  • GOP women and others who support Trump mostly said they still back Kavanaugh

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colorado: For women like Jayne A. Cordes, the steady stream of investigations in Washington is exhausting. That’s why, when Christine Blasey Ford came forward to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her more than three decades ago, it struck Cordes as the latest example of the ceaseless — and needless — drama in the capital.
“It’s shenanigans,” said Cordes, an independent who voted for President Donald Trump and lives in the suburbs south of Denver. “It just seems like everybody is open to any kind of allegation because they don’t like Trump.”
But the 59-year-old real estate agent was less dismissive toward Ford herself. “If it’s legitimate, she has a legitimate complaint,” Cordes said, her voice softening. “You don’t want her to be right, because it’s a horrible situation.”
More than 1,100 miles east, Carole Vienneau, a 61-year-old Democrat from Nashville, Tennessee, said it was “only fair” the FBI investigate Ford’s accusations as she has requested.
“This is a lifetime position,” she said. “He’s going for the Supreme Court.”
Gail Zika, 74, who is also a Nashville Democrat, said Ford appears to have a “legitimate claim.”
“I don’t think somebody as educated as she is is going to make this up,” Zika, a former college professor, said. “She needs to have the FBI investigate.”
The response of these women to the Kavanaugh fallout could be critical in the fight for Congress this fall. Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to win over the key voting bloc of suburban women ahead of the midterms. Interviews with nearly a dozen women across the country this week suggested a nuanced reaction to the news in Washington that could pose risks to both parties.
GOP women and others who support Trump mostly said they still back Kavanaugh. Democrats, meanwhile, generally called for more investigations. Many of the women, regardless of their politics, expressed personal empathy for Ford as she steps into a national firestorm.
Ford has said that Kavanaugh drunkenly pinned her to a bed and tried to take off her clothes at a 1980s house party when they were both teenagers at elite private schools near Washington. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.
If the Senate GOP leadership moves forward with a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, they run the risk of alienating female voters like Cordes in the Denver suburbs, where vulnerable Republican Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaign could play a role in deciding the House majority this fall.
There are challenges for Democrats too. Many Republicans said they were frustrated with the timing and saw it as a Democratic attempt to obstruct one of the president’s nominees to the nation’s highest court, which could energize them in November.
Norma Bozell, 63, lives in an affluent community in a Northern Virginia congressional district that stretches from the Washington suburbs to the rural part of the state. In this district, where Hillary Clinton easily defeated Trump, GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock is fighting for political survival.
Bozell, who describes herself as an independent, said she found the timing of the allegations suspicious and believed Kavanaugh was an “upstanding man” who was being “smeared” and that his family was being torn apart.
“I’m very disappointed in what seems to be a play of politics that (California Sen. Dianne) Feinstein has brought this out at the eleventh hour,” Bozell said.
Like Bozell, Republicans on Capitol Hill have said that Feinstein should have brought the information to the panel earlier. Feinstein has said she sought to protect Ford, whose letter to lawmakers outlining the allegation against Kavanaugh requested confidentiality.
Bozell said she wanted to see Ford testify on Capitol Hill and that if she won’t do so voluntarily, she should be subpoenaed. But Bozell also said that Ford’s “interpretation might be a lot different than what happened.”
“I remember when I was that age. There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on, especially if there’s alcohol involved,” she said. “Things could have been interpreted a little bit differently.”
Brooke DiStefano, 40, is a Democrat, and even she was somewhat dismissive of the allegations.
“It seems kind of silly because it’s high school,” the physician’s assistant said as she walked into a shopping mall in Lone Tree, Colorado.
DiStefano oscillated from strong skepticism to sympathy within a moment. She mused aloud that Ford just wanted attention “because the #MeToo movement is so popular,” but quickly added that the sort of assault Ford alleged happened “is an important issue.”
Also in Colorado, Linda Gumeson, 70, said she couldn’t believe allegations that were more than three decades old were being taken seriously today.
“If I could go back to high school and find everyone who tried to take advantage of us,” the Republican said, shaking her head. “It was different times.”
Gumeson, a Republican, said that times have changed, and she’s glad, but that she didn’t believe people should try to apply today’s standards retroactively.
“Thirty-six years, in high school,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”