Hosam Smadi, the man who admitted trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper last year, apologized Tuesday before he was sentenced to 24 years in prison in one of the largest terrorism cases in the city’s history.
“I am so ashamed for what I did,” said Hosam Smadi, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and sporting shoulder-length hair. “I am guilty of this ugly, evil crime that targeted innocent people -- women and children… I am very sorry for my action… Osama bin Laden is a bad man. I hate al-Qaida.”
Smadi made his statement immediately before Judge Barbara Lynn was to sentence him in U.S. District Court, just blocks from the 60-story Fountain Place office building he plotted to destroy in September 2009.
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The explosive device Smadi was set to detonate was fake. It was provided by undercover FBI agents, who discovered Smadi in an online group of extremists and then set up an elaborate sting operation with undercover operatives posing as members of an al-Qaida sleeper cell.
Judge Lynn made the following comments (transcribed by reporter Scott Gordon) during the sentencing:
"This case is interesting and challenging. Mr. Smadi, there is no question in my mind a number of things happened in your youth that are horrible. Your father's treatment of you was indefensible.....Your closeness to your mother and your reaction to her illness and her death are also tragic. The fact your father sent you here at 16, essentially to live by yourself.... is one more tragedy. You've had some bad events in California and then you came here and I'm sympathetic.. but then you made a series of even more tragic choices..."
"To refer to the conduct of law enforcement as outrageous, I reject that. Mr. Smadi came here, got himself involved with drugs....There's no question bad things happened to you that affected your mental state... I don't think your mental health is such that you have an excuse for your behavior. I can't figure out for the life of me what moved you in this direction..."
"The initiation of this contact was you and all you... I have not heard an explanation for what moved you to involved yourself with these kinds of websites and invite someone to assist you and provide the tools to you to do damage to this country, but that you did...You professed to love Osama bin Laden.."
"You're not the only person who has been dealt a bad hand, who has dealt with difficulties, and you won't be the last."
"Not only did you push that button, thinking you would blow up a building with thousands of people in it... but were concerned that the vehicle where you parked it was not located at the proper point undergound to do the most destruction... Maybe you got some encouragement along the way.. But I think these choices were yours. You saw what you were doing...I think it's undeniable you knew what you were doing."
"You had a job. People liked you. And then you made a turn that is absolutely horrible in all of its dimensions."
"I know you did not have the tools to do this by yourself... There's absolutely no indication you had any contact with any terrorist organizations... But you were looking for someone to join you in this evil enterprise and thank God you found the government there."
"I am mindful of the many and profound negative events that occured in your childhood. No one did anything to you. You came here and opportunity was provided to you... and then you made a bad turn. I can't pretend it didn't happen..."
"I believe you are remorseful and I am taking into account that you were vulnerable to influence... about the acts you were contemplating... That is not with any criticism of law enforcement. In fact, I deeply I appreciate, as everyone should, what law enforcment did."
"Every day from this day forward, Mr. Smadi, I want you to think of the people in that building.. They are completely innocent people whose lives you were prepared to end. For what? You were about to commit one of the great travesties and injustices of our time. That is a burden you will have to carry. I can't see in your heart. I wish I could."
Smadi, 20, an illegal immigrant who worked at a fast-food restaurant in Italy, Texas, had faced up to life in prison. But in a deal with prosecutors, he agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of no more than 30 years.
Smadi's defense attorneys argued the FBI didn't stop a terrorist, but, in effect, created one by manipulating a confused, drug-abusing young man seeking acceptance.
"It was the government that came up with the idea of Hosam picking a target, and they kept insisting he do so," said public defender Peter Fleury. "He couldn't build a bomb."
Prosecutors said entrapment was not an issue.
Earlier in the hearing Monday, psychiatrists for the prosecution and defense gave conflicting testimony about whether Smadi suffers from mental illness.
His father testified that Hosam grew up in a home with domestic violence. Maher Smadi admitted he beat his wife and his son, and that Hosam became so distraught at the age of 13 after the death of his mother from brain cancer that he sometimes slept next to her grave.
In his last court appearance on May 26, Smadi acknowledged he drove a truck containing what he believed to be a bomb into the parking garage at Fountain Place and later used a cell phone to try to detonate it. He said he believed the device would explode and cause extensive damage. The truck, provided by undercover agents, was rigged with a real-looking explosive device that was fake, the FBI said.
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