MANHATTAN (CN) – Balking at the 80% discrepancy with federal guidelines, the Second Circuit threw out what it called a “shockingly low” 17-year sentence for a Staten Island man who stabbed an FBI agent in the name of the Islamic State group.
The confrontation occurred in June 2015 as authorities executed a search warrant on the residence of Fareed Mumuni based on testimony that the American-born citizen, then 21, was planning to travel to Syria and join the terrorist group commonly known as ISIS.
Mumuni grabbed a kitchen knife with a nearly 8-inch-long blade and charged at one of the agents who appeared in his family’s living room. Though he stabbed at Agent Kevin Coughlin repeatedly, a metal magazine carrier inside the agent’s armored SWAT vest shielded the blows.
Pleading guilty to attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to support ISIS, Mumuni went into sentencing in April 2018 with the government seeking the full term of 85 years in prison recommended by federal guidelines.
U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie instead gave Mumuni just 17 years, calling it disputed whether he intended to kill the agent he stabbed.
In a 2-1 ruling Friday, the Second Circuit found these musings from the Obama appointee unreasonable.
“Mumuni’s attack was not a spontaneous assault of a federal officer amid a heated altercation. Nor was it an act of self‐ defense,” U.S. Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes wrote for the majority. “Mumuni’s violent attack against Agent Coughlin was indisputably a premeditated, willful, and deliberate attempt to murder a federal officer in the name of ISIS. In short, it was a pre‐authorized ISIS terrorist attack on American soil.”
The ruling notes that Mumuni concealed the knife behind his back as he approached the agent before suddenly charging toward him, revealing the knife only when he within striking distance, thus showing his intent to kill rather than to provoke a so-called “suicide by cop.”
Brodie abated the seriousness of Mumuni’s criminal conduct, Cabranes found, noting that by his own guilty plea and his allocution, Mumuni told the judge: “I did deliberately and intentionally attempt to kill a law enforcement officer by [lunging] at him with a knife knowing that if I succeeded in my attempt I could kill him.” (Brackets in opinion.)
“Here, the District Court drastically discounted the seriousness of Mumuni’s offense conduct based on a sterilized and revisionist interpretation of the record,” Cabranes wrote. “This clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence leaves us with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed — a mistake that resulted in a shockingly low sentence that, if upheld, would damage the administration of justice in our country.”
U.S. Circuit Judge Peter Hall dissented in part, denying in particular rejected that 17 years is “shockingly low” sentence.
“There is no doubt that this is a difficult case, but I fear the majority would prefer to substitute its sentencing preference for that of the District Court,” he wrote.
Mumuni’s defense counsel, Anthony Ricco and Ken Montgomery, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.
Cabranes is a Clinton appointee, and Hall was appointed by President George W. Bush. Bush Senior appointed the third judge on the panel, Judge John Walker, who concurred with the majority.