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Convicted terrorism supporter Jose Padilla to be resentenced

Jose Padilla, the convicted terrorism supporter from Broward County, is likely to be sentenced to a tougher term than the 17 years he's already serving after a Miami federal judge Wednesday scheduled a new sentencing date.

U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke set Aug. 4 as the new sentencing date for Padilla, 43, a former Plantation resident who was convicted of terrorism support and conspiracy after a lengthy trial in Miami in 2007. The judge sentenced him to 17 years, far shorter than the 30 years to life he was facing.

"There was never a plot to harm individuals inside the U.S. or to kill government or political officials," Cooke said at the time.

While Padilla was serving his sentence in the "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colo. — which houses extremely dangerous or notorious inmates such as Unabomber Ted Kaczynski — the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Cooke's sentence and sent the case back for resentencing, possibly to a harsher term.

The appeals court said Cooke failed to take into account Padilla's criminal record, which included a murder conviction and some 17 arrests during his time as a Chicago gang member after he left Broward County.

The judge had initially set Padilla's sentencing for July 1, but Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso asked Wednesday for a postponement. He needs time to review more than 1,000 pages of documents provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ricardo Del Toro. Caruso also wants to present classified government material as evidence, which may require the judge's decision on how to proceed.

"I assume there will be litigation over these issues," Caruso told the judge. "We would not be asking for this continuance without good cause."

The public defender noted Wednesday that it has been nearly 12 years since he was arrested on the federal charges.

Padilla, who had converted to Islam while in Broward County Jail in the 1990s, later underwent terrorism training overseas with al-Qaida.

He garnered international attention when he was originally labeled an enemy combatant by then-President Bush, and charged with plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city. Prosecutors later dropped that charge.

Padilla spent nearly four years in a Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., and some human rights groups say he underwent mental and physical torture at the hands of the military.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Padilla's behalf, claiming military officials threatened him with death or disfigurement, shackled him for hours in stress positions, deprived him of sleep, varied his cell temperature by extremes, forced noxious fumes into his cell and administered psychotropic drugs.

Padilla appeared pale and thin Wednesday in his beige prison jumpsuit. He said nothing during the hearing but smiled and waved at family members as he was being led out.

rnolin@tribune.com or 954-356-4525

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