Given Life in Prison, Chelsea Bomber Complains of Muslim Harassment

MANHATTAN (CN) – Ahmad Khan Rahimi was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for carrying out a series of 2016 bombings that, while nonfatal, caused panic in New York and New Jersey.

Following a three-hour hearing in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said he found no compelling argument for to vary from sentencing guidelines on the eight counts of which 30-year-old Rahimi was convicted of in October 2017.

Police arrested Rahimi on Sept. 19, 2016, after a shootout outside the Linden, New Jersey, doorway where Rahimi had been sleeping.

Using fingerprints found inside the unexploded devices, authorities tied the Afghan-born U.S. citizen to a series of bombings that injured 30 across the area.

The first explosion, on Sept. 17, occurred along the route of a charity 5K race in Seaside Park, New Jersey. Hours later, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan at 23rd Street, another pressure-cooker bomb blew up inside of a Dumpster, blowing out windows of nearby buildings and projecting shrapnel hundreds of yards away.

The third bomb was found four blocks north at 27th Street. Like the bombs found the next day at a train station in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, however, this device was discovered before detonation.

Though Rahimi pleaded not guilty, a 12-person jury found him guilty of all eight counts.

Judge Berman said Tuesday that Rahimi’s defense provided “not an ounce of justification.”

Rahimi’s sentencing attorney Xavier Donaldson failed to sway the court with his proposed sentence of 180 months.

For Berman, anything less than the statutory sentencing guidelines “would be totally inappropriate and not viable.”

Rahimi said repeatedly during a 12-minute standing address to the court that he didn’t harbor any hatred, but that his growing adherence to Islam caused him to face more harassment from FBI agents at airports after returning to the U.S. from travel to the Dominican Republic, Manchester and Pakistan.

“I’ve learned to understand why there’s such frustration between the Muslim community overseas and the American people,” Rahimi said, attributing this understanding to “life experience.”

Rahimi was awaiting sentencing last month in the Metropolitan Correctional Center when prosecutors claimed to have found evidence that he was trying to radicalize a fellow inmate with al-Qaida propaganda smuggled into the prison.

Wearing blue prison smock and white cap Tuesday, Rahimi refuted these claims, telling the court that the fellow inmate was already “radicalized by FBI agents when he was on the outside.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley argued that everything Rahimi has done since 2016 “has been fueled by hate,” and “he has shown no remorse.”

Berman approved restitution to victims at the sum of $562,803 as proposed by the government.

He said he considered Rahimi to be a danger to the community, citing the “hostile and threatening “ nature of the bombings and the influence of  “virulent anti-U.S.” terrorist propaganda.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill noted in a statement that Rahimi’s sentencing should deter future acts of terror.

“Rahimi attempted to wreak havoc in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. He failed,” said Commissioner O’Neill. “Committing terrorism may seem, from the darkest places of the internet and espoused in propaganda, as a higher calling. It is not.” Rahimi was convicted on Oct. 16, 2017, following a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who also imposed today’s sentence.

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