Libyan tied to Benghazi attack sentenced to 19 and a half years

Posted Thursday, 23 January 2020 ‐ CNN

Washington (CNN)A Libyan man who acted as a scout for the Islamist militia that stormed the US consulate in Benghazi in 2012 was sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison Thursday by a federal judge in Washington. Mustafa al-Imam was convicted last summer of destroying property at the US diplomatic compound in the Libyan city and conspiring to support terrorists, but he escaped more severe punishment when a jury was unable to reach a verdict on more than a dozen other counts, including murder charges related to the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Judge Christopher Cooper, who delivered the sentence, said al-Imam was not simply "guilty by association" but had likely acted as the "eyes and ears" of the attack's mastermind that night. Cooper also evoked the separate siege of the US Embassy in Baghdad late last year, noting that he was punishing al-Imam in part to deter other would-be attackers from targeting US diplomats and service members abroad. "Those folks are very exposed and very vulnerable targets, as recent events have shown," Cooper said. "Anyone contemplating harming them needs to know they will face serious consequences."The sentencing marks one of the final acts in the years-long fallout from the Benghazi attack, which spurred several investigations and sparked a political firestorm. The hearing room was at one point lined with family members of the attack's victims, as well as personnel from the State Department and CIA who had responded to it. Al-Imam, a slight 47-year-old who wore an orange jail uniform, did not noticeably react when the sentence was handed down. After the hearing, Barbara Doherty, the mother of a CIA contractor who was killed in the attack, Glen Doherty, hugged the lead Justice Department prosecutor and told him, "Thank you for all your hard work." Doherty told CNN that she was "pleased" with the sentence. An attorney for al-Imam, Matthew Peed, said he planned to appeal the sentence. "We're disappointed by the sentence. It was based on conclusions that the jury did not find," Peed said. While prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of 35 years in prison for al-Imam, the Libyan's defense team had argued that 41 months -- a little over three years -- would be fair.In court documents, al-Imam's lawyers described him as a "frail, uneducated, and simple man" who made a "tremendous mistake." "He is not a fighter, an ideologue, or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family," they wrote in a sentencing memo submitted earlier this month. Role in the attackAl-Imam was described as a "scout" for the militia on the night that it burned and ransacked the US diplomatic mission and a CIA building. He arrived as the attack was ongoing, in a convoy alongside Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the militia's leader and the accused ringleader of the attack. Using phone records, prosecutors had shown that al-Imam had spoken throughout the evening with Abu Khatallah as the attack progressed. Prosecutors had also alleged that al-Imam handled a map stolen from the wrecked mission, suggesting that he may have helped militia members locate the nearby CIA annex, where more Americans were later killed. Prosecutors also showed surveillance video from the area on the night of the attack as they argued that al-Imam would have known that he was walking into a battle that could result in the deaths of Americans. "That's not an errand boy, that is somebody who's a member of a militia," said John Cummings, the prosecutor. The attack on the mission was "designed to maximize pain and humiliation" for America, Cummings said, adding that a stiff sentence was necessary to deter future terrorists' plans. In sentencing Abu Khattalah in 2018, Cooper also disappointed the government with a lower sentence than prosecutors had requested. Abu Khattalah is serving a 22-year sentence, after a jury acquitted him of murder and attempted murder charges. He was convicted on four charges, including conspiracy and providing support to terrorists. In a statement before the court on Thursday, Greg Doherty, the brother of CIA contractor Glen Doherty, had urged Cooper to impose the maximum 35-year sentence on al-Imam, calling Cooper's decision in the Abu Khattalah case a "travesty to the process" that "deflates our standing abroad." "I do feel compassion as I sense that you do for the defendant," Doherty said. "I'm sad that he made the choices that he did. However those are important life and death decisions that he made and the consequences matter for our family and the nation." In their arguments, al-Imam's attorneys had emphasized the context in Libya: The attack took place in a country that had gone through a bloody revolution and where splintered militias were thriving. Al-Imam, they argued, was not an inner-circle operative of Khatallah's but rather a friend who had sought protection from an important local leader in a time of dangerous uncertainty.

Other articles published by CNN

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

Tokyo (CNN)A top Japanese government adviser has admitted that the quarantine measures enacted on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama may have allowed additional infections to spread among the ship's crew and passengers.The US-based cruise ship...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester thanked medical personnel for saving his life in his first public address since he was revived with a defibrillator during a game. "It happened in the absolute best place that it could happen because of all ...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A celestial phenomenon is set to occur between Venus and the moon Thursday night, according to NASA's calendar. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and you've got a clear sky Thursday, look to the southwest and you'll see a very bright Venus...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Children's lives may not be as hard as adults', but sometimes their moodiness and sadness are more than just a phase. Around one in six US youth ages 6 to 17 has a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder such as anxiety, depression or...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)I spent a good chunk of time doing the math to come up with a bottom-line figure for all of Bernie Sanders' proposals -- not just "Medicare for All" but the Green New Deal, free college, universal pre-K and child care, and so on. The total? An...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)President Donald Trump wants America to know he's doing a great job in keeping out the novel coronavirus, in a victory lap that could look premature if his own experts are correct in their more somber forecasts.The President spoke at a news...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A great horned owl injured during a California wildfire flapped back into the wild Wednesday evening, thrilling the firefighters who rescued him.Early last November, Ventura County Fire Department crews working on the Maria Fire spotted something...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

New York (CNN Business)Dow futures dropped 350 points late Wednesday after US health authorities said they've discovered a case of novel coronavirus in the country without knowing its origin. Other major US indexes also declined in after-hours trading....

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Elizabeth Warren said Wednesday that she is ready for a convention floor battle this summer if none of the Democratic candidates reaches a delegate majority during the primaries.The senator from Massachusetts made it clear at a CNN town hall in...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)The novel coronavirus outbreak appears to have entered a new stage, as cases continue to rise around the world, raising fears of a global pandemic, even as the situation stabilizes inside China. World Health Organization (WHO) officials...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

Charleston, South Carolina (CNN)Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she wouldn't step aside before the Democratic convention if none of her presidential rivals reach the number of delegates required to clinch the party's nomination before then. It...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned that the novel coronavirus will spread in US communities, and a case announced on Wednesday might be the country's first instance of it."Our aggressive containment strategy...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an investigation into a multi-state E. coli outbreak they believe is linked to Jimmy John's.The announcement comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration accused the sandwich chain of...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

Washington (CNN)Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she thought she might have gotten hit in the middle of a heated exchange between businessman Tom Steyer and former Vice President Joe Biden during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate. "That moment with those...

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden reflected on how personal tragedy has affected his faith while connecting Wednesday night with a pastor who lost his wife in the 2015 mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The Rev....