Man re-sentenced in terror case
A federal judge in Alexandria re-sentenced a former third-grade teacher at a Muslim school who was involved in a group known as the "Virginia jihad network" to 15 years in prison.
A jury convicted Ali Asad Chandia in June 2006 of aiding Lashkar-I-Taiba, a group fighting the Indian government that the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization. Judge Claude M. Hilton sentenced Chandia in August 2006 to 15 years in prison.
In his first sentencing of Chandia, Hilton applied what is known as the "terrorism enhancement" law, which allows judges to increase a defendant's sentence if the alleged crime can be considered a "federal crime of terrorism."
But Chandia, who proclaimed his innocence, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, saying the terrorism enhancement law wasn't properly used.
Chandia was involved in a case that involved nearly a dozen Muslim men who became known as the "Virginia jihad network."
The group's spiritual leader, Ali al-Timimi, was convicted in 2005 on charges that included soliciting others to levy war against the U.S. He was sentenced to life in prison. Some members of the group played paintball in Virginia as part of what prosecutors called their preparation for holy war against U.S. troops.
Prosecutors had said Chandia trained at a Lashkar camp in Pakistan and helped the group acquire paintballs and other equipment with potential military uses when he returned to the U.S. The equipment included unmanned aerial vehicles, night-vision equipment and wireless video cameras.
But some Washington area Muslims said the case unfairly targeted men who never intended to attack the United States.
Friday was the third time Chandia had been sentenced by Hilton.
The appeals court had affirmed Chandia's convictions, but said that it was "not comfortable holding that Chandia is a defendant who warrants the harsh enhancement."
It ordered Hilton to "make clear that it has made independent findings" on Chandia's objections to a pre-sentencing report. The court also said that if Hilton found the terrorism enhancement warranted, he must "explain how specific facts indicate that his motive in providing material support was to influence.
In court on Friday, Hilton reiterated evidence that Chandia provided support to the terrorist group.
Chandia's lawyer Marvin D. Miller of Alexandria said that while he jury found his client guilty of providing material support, there was no proof of Chandia's motivation, which he argues is needed to apply the terrorism enhancement law that increased his client's sentence.
Miller said Chandia likely would have been sentenced to six to seven years but received a 15 year sentence with the terrorism enhancement.
| March 11, 2011; 10:55 AM ET
Categories: Alexandria, Dana Hedgpeth, From the Courthouse
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