War on Terrorism

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

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

United States Attorney's Office

Southern District of New York

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MAHMOUD MAMDUH SALIM was re-sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to life in prison for his brutal assault on Corrections Officer LOUIS PEPE of the Metropolitan Correctional Center ("MCC") on November 1, 2000. SALIM attacked PEPE while incarcerated in the MCC awaiting trial in the case of United States v. Bin Laden, (the "Embassy Bombings Case"). The Indictment in the Embassy Bombings Case alleged, among other things, that SALIM participated in a global conspiracy to kill Americans in connection with the operations of al Qaeda, and specifically charged that SALIM was a trusted aide to USAMA BIN LADEN. The sentence was imposed today by U.S. District Judge DEBORAH A. BATTS.

According to documents filed with the court, evidence introduced during an eight-day sentencing hearing before Judge BATTS, and decisions by Judge BATTS and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in this case:

SALIM launched his carefully prepared assault on Officer PEPE with the assistance of his cellmate at the time (and his co-defendant in the Embassy Bombings Case) KHALFAN KHAMIS MOHAMMED. Prior to the attack, SALIM made knives out of a comb and hairbrush that he ordered from the MCC commissary, filled honey-bear bottles with hot sauce, and made ropes out of cloth and saran wrap. On the day of the assault, SALIM lured Officer PEPE into SALIM's cell on 10-South at the MCC, and SALIM and MOHAMMED then attacked Officer PEPE. SALIM knocked Officer PEPE down and sprayed hot sauce into his eyes in an attempt to blind him. When Officer PEPE continued to resist SALIM's and MOHAMMED's assault, SALIM took one of the knives that he had made and shoved it into Officer PEPE's left eye. This brutal assault caused horrific injuries to Officer PEPE, including blindness in one eye and partial blindness in the other, and resulted in his confinement in a wheelchair, difficulty in speaking, and requiring nearly constant home health assistance.

Moreover, SALIM’s attack on Officer PEPE was the first step of a larger plan by SALIM to commit other violent criminal acts. Judge 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, but then abandoned that plan. Instead, SALIM attacked Officer PEPE as the first step in a plan to assault SALIM’s attorneys, and thereby to force U.S. District Judge LEONARD B. SAND, who was presiding over the Embassy Bombings Case, to appoint new attorneys for SALIM.

SALIM had previously pled guilty to two charges related to the November 1, 2000, attack, specifically to (1) conspiring to murder Officer PEPE, and (2) attempting to murder Officer PEPE. Subsequently, following the eight-day sentencing hearing, on May 3, 2004, Judge BATTS sentenced Salim to 32 years’ imprisonment. The government then appealed that sentence because the District Court had declined to impose an enhancement under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for conduct that involves terrorism. In December 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated SALIM’s sentence and remanded the matter for the court to re-sentence SALIM with the application of the terrorism enhancement.

In resentencing SALIM, Judge BATTS made reference to an Order filed on July 8, 2010, in which the Court described some of the more aggravating characteristics of SALIM’s conduct. Among other things, Judge BATTS noted that a life sentence was appropriate because of (1) SALIM’s decision to “plunge the sharpened weapon deeply into the eye of the downed but struggling man,” which was “appalling”; (2) the grievous nature of the injury suffered by Officer PEPE; (3) the fact that SALIM intended to commit other violent acts against his attorneys after attacking Officer PEPE; and (4) his use of “religious and psychological coercion” to convince MOHAMMED to assist SALIM in his attack.

SALIM, 52, was also sentenced to a lifetime term of supervised release and was ordered to pay $4,722,820 in restitution, to reimburse the victim for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and lost income.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

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.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney JONATHAN S. KOLODNER is in charge of the prosecution.

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