WASHINGTON (CN) – Supreme Court justices overturned a more lenient conviction against the so-called “Millennium Bomber,” who plotted to detonate a car bomb at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2000.
An 8-1 majority reinstated Ahmed Ressam’s conviction for carrying explosives in connection with his felony offense of lying to a U.S. customs official.
Algerian-born Ressam tried to enter the United States via ferry in Port Angeles, Wash., and falsely identified himself on the customs declaration form as a Canadian named Benni Noris. Officials searched the rental car and found explosives in the spare tire well.
He was convicted of several crimes, including the felony conviction of lying to a U.S. customs official and carrying an explosive “during the commission of” that felony.
Ressam appealed his conviction for carrying explosives, arguing that it was unrelated to his false statement to customs officials.
The 9th Circuit agreed with Ressam’s argument over semantics, but the justices said “dictionary definitions need not be consulted” to determine that Ressam violated the federal law outlined by Congress in the 1988 “Explosives Offenses Amendments.” He had explosives in his car when he knowingly lied to officials, meaning he carried them “during” the felony violation, the court ruled.
Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented in part, but ultimately agreed with the judgment. Justice Breyer dissented.