Yes, a decade later this case is still stuck in our legal system. But at least there’s some progress on the justice front.
A U.S. appeals court decided Tuesday that a Libyan man’s 22-year sentence for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attack wasn’t enough.
Ahmed Abu Khatallah, 51, was originally convicted in 2018 on several counts for his involvement in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. intelligence and diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya — where armed militants overwhelmed security at the U.S. mission and killed four Americans. Khatallah appealed his conviction, but the government cross-appealed — arguing the 22-year sentence a judge imposed was unreasonably low.
You won’t be too surprised that we’re dealing with an Obama judge here.
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper in 2018 could have imposed a greater sentence on Khatallah — because two of his convictions pertained to terrorism — offering up the possibility of life in prison. But Cooper went with the lesser sentence of 22 years, attributing his decision in part to not relying on the charges Khatallah was acquitted of.
You might remember Cooper from his recent role in the Russiagate/Michael Sussman case.
But the appeals court panel consisting of D.C. Circuit Judges Patricia Millett, Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao on Tuesday unanimously overturned the district judge’s sentence as too lenient “given the gravity of such an assault on an American diplomatic facility and the district court’s own recognition of the vital need to deter such crimes.”
“In sentencing Khatallah to just twelve years for the two support-of-terrorism counts and the property destruction count, the district court did not — and could not on this record — sufficiently justify its additional variance so far below the sentencing range that would have been appropriate even without any consideration of acquitted conduct,” the decision reads.
Katsas and Rao are appointees of President Donald Trump. Millett was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Conservatives fought Millett’s appointment at the time, but compared to a lot of Obama judges, she’s been somewhat on the moderate side by the low bar of Obama judges. That’s probably why Garland got the nod over her.
Of course, this means that Khatallah’s case will continue dragging on.