Judge Rejects Jury Verdict and Prosecution's Recommendation, Issues Maximum Sentence (5/1)Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace
May 1, 2006
Judge Rejects Jury Verdict and Prosecution's Recommendation,
Issues Maximum Sentence
TAMPA- At a sentencing hearing this morning at the U.S. federal
courthouse in Tampa, a judge issued Dr. Sami Al-Arian a maximum
sentence of 57 months, despite recommendations by both government
and defense attorneys to give him the low end of the sentence or 46
Before the sentencing, Dr. Al-Arian's attorney, Linda Moreno, made a
passionate appeal for the judge to order Dr. Al-Arian's immediate
release and deportation on the basis of time-served: the 38 months
he has been in prison, most of which were spent in solitary
confinement under the most punitive conditions.
Dr. Al-Arian could have been released as early as May 23 under the
low-end of the sentence. The maximum adds another 10 months.
Moreno also asked that the judge, James Moody, enter into the public
record dozens of letters that were sent on behalf of Dr. Al-Arian
from family members, students, colleagues and supporters worldwide,
urging him to give Dr. Al-Arian the minimum sentence.
Among the letters she cited is one by a prominent Israeli academic,
who wrote that Dr. Al-Arian is "genuinely committed to bring peace
and justice to his and my country."
In his eloquent address to the court, Dr. Al-Arian said: "This
process affirmed my belief in the true meaning of a democratic
society, in which the independence of the judiciary, the integrity
of the jury system, and the system of checks and balances are
upheld, despite intense political and public pressures."
Unfortunately, in his remarks before the sentencing, Judge Moody
showed contempt for the jury process. None of his accusations, which
were unequivocally rejected by the jury, appear anywhere in the
actual plea agreement for which Dr. Al-Arian was being sentenced, or
in the pre-sentencing report issued by a probation officer. He
regurgitated long disproven accusations by the prosecution and even
rehashed a charge by a previously discredited FBI informant. During
the course of his tirade, Moody resorted to name-calling and
personal insults. His vitriolic speech reflected an extreme bias
against the Arab and Muslim community and a myopic view of the
On a day when all sides expected a swift and final resolution to
this painful chapter, the judge ensured Dr. Al-Arian's and his
family's continued suffering and sparked outrage by friends,
colleagues and supporters. Following the vindictive display, many
experienced lawyers and legal experts said they had never seen a
judge carry himself in such an unscrupulous manner.
Furthermore, the draconian sentence by the judge caused a
significant setback in the civil rights struggle for Arab and Muslim
Americans. It was also the latest contribution to the deepening rift
between the U.S. and the Muslim world at a time when dialogue and
understanding are needed.
One supporter on the courthouse steps said: "He truly represented
the worst of America today."