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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Terror-trial sentences due

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A week before three Toledo-area men are to be sentenced for terrorism-related activities, attorneys for the convicted men argued yesterday that they should spend a set number of years in prison while government attorneys asked the judge to consider life terms.

Attorneys for Mohammad Amawi, Marwan El-Hindi, and Wassim Mazloum appeared in U.S. District Court in Toledo yesterday to nail down what sort of prison term the men face. Judge James Carr, who will sentence the men next week, said he would take the argument under advisement and release his decision before the first sentencing Tuesday morning.

The three men were convicted June 13, 2008, on two counts each of conspiring to kill or injure people in the Middle East - including U.S. troops serving in Iraq - and of providing material support and resources to terrorists overseas. Amawi and El-Hindi also were found guilty on two counts of distributing information regarding explosives.

In federal court, a sentence range is calculated based on factors such as the defendant's criminal history and the type of offense committed. The calculation gives a suggested range for a prison sentence. The judge, however, has the discretion to go higher or lower.

During the hours-long hearing yesterday - which Amawi refused to attend - the attorneys argued about several facets of the federal sentencing code. Primarily at issue was whether a terrorism enhancement should be a part of the sentencing guidelines.

If the judge rules that the enhancement is appropriate, the men face life in prison.

"If you look at the history of the terrorism enhancement, … the clear intent is to punish these crimes in a different way and to maximize the sentence," said Gregg Sofer, a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice. "… The point is that defendants charged with these types of crimes are treated somewhat differently."

In lengthy sentencing memorandums filed with the court, each defense team outlined factors they hope the judge will consider - including the defendant's backgrounds - and offered their opinions on appropriate sentences.

When asked in court to offer a guideline range deemed appropriate for their clients, Amawi's lawyers suggested between nine and 11 years; El-Hindi's attorneys recommended a sentence between eight and 10 years, and Mazloum's defense team believed a sentence between about five and six years was appropriate.

"The facts of this case don't support the big bang" of the terrorism enhancement, attorney Charles Boss said on behalf of El-Hindi. "There was a vast quantity of evidence, but when you get to the quality of evidence, it wasn't there."

In the months since their convictions, the three men have been incarcerated in a federal prison awaiting sentencing.

Delaying the process were several postconviction motions - including motions for new trials and requests for acquittals - filed by the defendants.

Judge Carr denied the motions in May.

Since then, presentence reports have been drafted for each defendant, outlining a comprehensive history of each man and the offense for which he was convicted. Attorneys crafted memorandums in response to the reports and yesterday argued out disagreements.

Ultimately, Judge Carr will decide how much time each man spends in prison. Yesterday, he acknowledged that terrorism convictions don't fall into a "one-size-fits-all" category.

Amawi will be sentenced Tuesday morning and El-Hindi on Tuesday afternoon. Mazloum will be sentenced Wednesday.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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