(CN) – A Texas-born terrorist who planned to kill President George W. Bush and carry out a second round of Sept. 11-style plane attacks must spend the rest of his life in prison, the 4th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was originally sentenced by a District Court to 30 years in prison for plotting with al-Qaida to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States. The federal appeals panel in Richmond, Va., vacated the sentence in 2008, however, ruling that the lower court’s sentence was not strong enough and fell below sentencing guidelines.
Abu Ali appealed to the circuit again when the District Court in Alexandria came back with the life sentence. A three-judge panel rejected the appeal in an unsigned decision, finding that the plot against Bush and the aircraft-piracy plot made Abu Ali eligible for the life term in prison.
Abu Ali was arrested in 2003 in Saudi Arabia, where he studied after attending an Islamic school in Virginia.
The trial court had originally classified Abu Ali’s transgressions as worse than those of John Walker Lindh, the California-raised man who was sentenced to 20 years for fighting alongside the Taliban, but not as bad as those of the Oklahoma City bombers, Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh, who were sentenced to life in prison and death by lethal injection, respectively.
In challenging the life sentence, Abu Ali argued that more than 20 terrorism defendants since Sept. 11 had been sentenced to an average prison term of 12 years and eight months.
The judges noted that most of those defendants had pleaded guilty, while “here, the defendant refused to express remorse or accept responsibility for his crimes.”
“Further, Abu Ali conspired to cripple the United States government by assassinating members of the Senate, the Army, the executive branch, and even the president himself,” the ruling states. “In short, as the trial court noted, Abu Ali sought to inflict harm of a singular sort.”