Nine-Year Sentence of Terrorist Suspect Upheld by Circuit

, New York Law Journal


Dearie, who said he consulted with fellow judges on the case, issued a follow-on opinion in October 2012 saying, "Despite his serious criminal conduct," Pratheepan "is a person of substance and decency who was motivated solely to assist the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka who were engaged in an ongoing civil war that it now appears involved serious human rights violations on both sides of the conflict."

The LTTE was formed in 1976 as a militant group aimed at creating a separate Tamil state. With an army of some 10,000 soldiers, it engaged the government of Sri Lanka in a civil war that included suicide bombings and assassinations and led the State Department to put the LTTE on the terror organization list in 1997.

A military offensive by the government ended the rebellion in 2009, three years after Pratheepan was indicted in the Eastern District.

On Thursday, in United States v. Pretheepan Thavaraja, 12-4330-cr, Judges John Walker (See Profile), Debra Ann Livingston (See Profile) and Denny Chin (See Profile) credited Dearie's rationales and his broad discretion to downwardly depart, rejecting the government's argument that the sentence was "substantively unreasonable."

In their brief, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexander Solomon and Peter Norling argued Dearie had put too much weight on factors that appellate courts frown upon "such as whether the terrorist organization to which the defendant belongs poses a direct threat to the United States and whether the goals of that terrorist organization are not blameworthy."

The prosecutors said the LTTE "is well know for pioneering the use of the suicide belt" and "is the only known terrorist organization to have assassinated two heads of state, Indian prime minister Rajiv Ghandi in 1991 and Sri Lankan president Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1993."

But Chin, writing for the court, said Dearie's sentence "fell within the range of permissible decisions."

"The sentence here of 108 months was neither 'shockingly low' nor insupportable as a matter of law, nor would the administration of justice be damaged by allowing the sentence to stand," he said.

Chin made reference to Dearie's statement about the case presenting one of the "loneliest" moments of his career, saying "We can understand why, for many competing considerations came into play."

While "Pratheepan's crimes were certainly grave," Chin said, "many mitigating circumstances were presented."

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