By Curt Anderson
The Associated Press
MIAMI — Convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla's resentencing was postponed by a federal judge Wednesday, after his defense attorney argued Padilla is deteriorating psychologically after years of isolation and needs more time for family visits.
Attorney Michael Caruso said Padilla's family in South Florida has only been able to visit him one time since 2008 at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where he is kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day and allowed no contact with other inmates.
Now that Padilla, 42, is back at a Miami detention center his mother and brothers can see him more regularly and perhaps improve his mental condition, Caruso told U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke at a hearing. He did not elaborate on Padilla's mental issues.
"It would be beneficial. It is in his best interest to continue the sentencing," Caruso said.
At one point, Caruso called the harsh prison conditions akin to torture, which was rejected by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier.
"He is not in some black hole of Calcutta," Frazier said.
Cooke, however, agreed to postpone the resentencing hearing from next Monday to Jan. 29. A new sentence must be imposed because the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Padilla's original 17-year sentence was too lenient for a trained al-Qaida operative who also had a long criminal record as a Chicago gang member.
Among other things, Cooke gave Padilla credit for more than three years he was imprisoned without criminal charge in a South Carolina Navy brig as an enemy combatant. Those years were also in intense isolation, court records show.
Padilla, who according to trial testimony trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on what authorities at the time said was a terrorist mission to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a major U.S. city. Those allegations were dropped before Padilla was added to an existing South Florida terrorism support indictment.
Two codefendants in that case, Adham Hassoun, who was his South Florida recruiter, and Islamist propagandist Kifah Jayyousi were also convicted and are serving lengthy prison sentences. The appeals court did not order new sentences for them.
Federal prosecutors had opposed the Padilla resentencing delay, arguing that little would change in a month or two. But Cooke noted that she held a closed-door hearing with Padilla and his family last week and that information gleaned there played a role in her decision.
"There are some things that you are not privy to," Cooke told Frazier.
The hearing was attended by Padilla's mother, Estella Lebron, and two brothers. They declined to speak with reporters.
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Counting time off for good behavior, Padilla's current prison release date is Jan. 4, 2022.