Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bin Laden aide sentenced to life in prison for blinding and handicapping a Corrections Officer


On August 31, 2010 in Manhattan federal court, 52 year old Mahmoud Mamduh Salim was sentenced to life in prison for his brutal assault on Corrections Officer Louis Pepe. Salim was previously indicted in the Embassy Bombings case for attacks that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Salim is charged to have participated in a global conspiracy to kill Americans in connection with the operations of Al Qaeda. Salim was specifically identified as a trusted aide of Osama Bin Laden.

Salim was incarcerated in the Metropolitan Correctional Center ("MCC"), awaiting trial in the case of United States v. Bin Laden, (the "Embassy Bombings Case"). Ten years ago, on November 1, 2000, Salim led a horrific attack on Corrections Officer Pepe. It took over 10 years for Salim to be finally sentenced in this matter.

According to the documents filed by the prosecutors, Salim carefully prepared and launched an assault on Officer Pepe, with the assistance of his cellmate Khalfan Khamis Mohammed. In preparation for the barbaric attack, Salim fashioned knives out of a comb and hairbrush that he ordered from the MCC commissary. He made ropes out of cloth and saran wrap and filled honey-bear bottles with hot sauce.

On the day of the assault, Salim lured Officer Pepe into his cell, where Salim and his cellmate Mohammed attacked him in the most inhumane manner imaginable. Salim knocked Officer Pepe to the ground and attempted to blind him by spraying hot sauce into his eyes. While Officer Pepe continued to fight back against Salim and Mohammed, Salim took out one of the knives he had made and brutally shoved it into Officer Pepe’s left eye.

Salim’s assault caused horrific injuries to Officer Pepe, who is now handicapped, has a difficulty speaking and requires nearly constant home health assistance. As the result of an attack, Pepe is blind in one eye, partially blind in the other and is confined to a wheelchair.

Salim’s attack against Officer Pepe was the first step of a larger plan to commit other violent criminal acts. U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts found that Salim had initially planned to take hostages in an effort to free himself and his co-defendants in the Embassy Bombings Case.

Mahmoud Mamduh Salim pled guilty to two charges related to the November 1, 2000 assault, specifically to attempting to murder Officer Pepe and conspiracy to do so. Following the 8-day sentencing hearing, Judge Batts sentenced Salim to 32 years in prison. She declined to impose an enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for conduct that involves terrorism. Based on Batts’ undue leniency and failure to impose an enhancement based on Salim’s terrorist activities, the government appealed his sentence. In December 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated Salim’s sentence and remanded the case for re-sentencing with the application of the terrorism enhancement.

In re-sentencing Salim, Judge Batts referred to an Order filed on July 8, 2010, in which she described some of the aggravating characteristics of Salim’s assault against Officer Pepe. Judge Batts noted that a life sentence was appropriate because of Salim’s actions in plunging “the sharpened weapon deeply into the eye of the downed but struggling man,” which was “appalling” and the grievous nature of the injury suffered by Officer Pepe. The victim’s brain was damaged in the attack, impacting his ability to speak or engage in any day-to-day activities. Batts also referenced the fact that Salim intended to commit additional violent acts against his attorneys after the completion of his attack against Pepe.

Judge Batts also referred to Salim’s use of “religious and psychological coercion” in convincing Mohammed to participate in an assault. In addition to the sentence of life in prison, Batts also sentenced him to a lifetime term of supervised release. 10 years after the attack, Salim was ordered to pay $4,722,820 in restitution to his victim, to reimburse Pepe for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost income.

Judge Batts called the crime "unusually cruel, brutal and gratuitious." She could have saved the victim additional years of agony, if she had originally imposed an appropriate sentence.

Wheelchair-bound, blind in one eye Pepe faced his attacker in court, via closed-circuit television. "You want to be (a) martyr?" Pepe asked Salim. "Guess what, Salim? You're not going (to be a) martyr. You're going to hell - that's where you’re going."

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “By all accounts, Officer Louis Pepe’s heroic efforts on November 1, 2000, helped prevent Mahmoud Mamduh Salim from shedding even more blood than he did. As a result of Salim's vicious, premeditated attack, Officer Pepe has suffered terrible injuries and years of pain. Today's life sentence, which comes almost 10 years after the assault, provides at least a small measure of vindication for Officer Pepe and his family.”

Alleged Bin Laden Aide Re-Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Life in Prison for Brutal Attack on Prison Guard and Attempt to Attack His Lawyers

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