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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Pirates of Penance--or not

Department of Justice Press Release November 24, 2010
United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of Virginia
Five Somalis Convicted of Piracy Against USS Nicholas
NORFOLK, VA—A federal jury in Norfolk, Va., has convicted five men from Somalia of engaging in piracy and related offenses in their attack on the USS Nicholas, marking what is believed to be the first piracy trial conviction in the United States since 1820.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.
"Today marks the first jury conviction of piracy in more than 190 years," said U.S. Attorney MacBride. "These five Somali pirates were convicted of an armed assault on the high seas against what they thought was a merchant vessel, but turned out to be a U.S. Navy frigate engaged in counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Modern-day pirates not only threaten human lives but also disrupt international commerce by extorting hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom payments. Today's conviction demonstrates that armed attacks on U.S.-flagged vessels are crimes against the international community and that pirates will face severe consequences in U.S. courts."
"Ensuring maritime security on the world's seas continues to be a high priority for NCIS as part of the international law enforcement community," said NCIS Special Agent in Charge Russ. "NCIS is forward deployed with U.S. naval forces and is able to deliver a unique blend of capabilities to help deter and prosecute pirates."
After nine days of trial, the jury convicted the five men—Mohammed Modin Hasan, Gabul Abdullahi Ali, Abdi Wali Dire, Abdi Mohammed Gurewardher, and Abdi Mohammed Umar, all from Somalia—of piracy, attack to plunder a vessel, act of violence against persons on a vessel, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees, conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence, and multiple firearm counts, including the use of a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). They face a mandatory penalty of life in prison when they are sentenced on March 14, 2011.
The Somalis were indicted on April 21, 2010, and were later charged with additional crimes in a 14-count superseding indictment on July 7, 2010. According to evidence and trial testimony, the five men left Somalia in search of a merchant ship to pirate. They used a larger ship full of supplies, along with two smaller vessels loaded with assault weapons and a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) that served as attack boats. On April 1, 2010, Hasan, Ali, and Dire boarded one of these smaller vessels and set out to pirate what they believed to be a merchant ship, while Gurewardher and Umar remained onboard the large ship to maintain that ship during the attack.
Ali and Dire each carried an assault weapon, and Hasan carried an RPG. They opened fire on a ship, which they later discovered was the USS Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate homeported in Norfolk, Va.
The piracy conviction and the conviction for the use of a destructive device (an RPG) in relation to a crime of violence both carry a mandatory penalty of life in prison. In addition, they are facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for attack to plunder a vessel; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy and an act of violence against persons on a vessel; a maximum of 10 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon in the special maritime jurisdiction; a maximum of 20 years in prison for assault with a dangerous weapon on federal officers and employees; a maximum of 20 years in prison for conspiracy to use firearms during a crime of violence; a maximum of 10 years in prison for one count of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, a second firearm count carries an additional 25 years—to equal 35 years—in prison.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla, John Davis, and Benjamin L. Hatch from the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Jerome Teresinski from the Department of Justice's National Security Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.
Here it is the end of November, and my longsufferring readers have gone three weeks without a post from The White Man. I shall try to organise my thoughts to respond to this supposedly historic event.

Notice, as in all cases of violent crime, the battery of charges pressed against the suspects. It is quite ridiculous that in addition to serving life in prison for the act of piracy itself, they will serve an additional (?!) 115 years for 'related charges'. It appears that 'life in prison' is essentially a meaningless sentence.

The money spent to prosecute these men has by now no doubt exceeded several million dollars. Housing them for the duration of their sentence will cost several million more. We taxpayers would have been better off if the naval officers of the USS Nicholas had invited them on board, escorted them to a stateroom, and given them an all expense paid cruise back to America, where they could have been put up in a first-class motel and privately tutored in English 16 hours a day until such time as they could understand it well enough to join the Navy as deck seamen. Eight weeks of Boot Camp would be plenty enough punishment for their crimes, with the understanding that if they washed out they would get a ride back to Somalia in the brig of the next warship headed that way. Should they graduate, they could then earn their keep chipping rust, slapping on paint, and standing watch for the next four years. With the money they would earn, they could pay cash for a house in the Somali section of a US city and settle down to a life of plenty.

Instead, they get to spend the rest of their lives recruiting new terrorists from the vast federal prison system, eating--and probably sleeping--better than they ever did in Somalia. And need I mention that being sent to prison for life will substantially raise their life expectancy?

No, there's nothing to get excited about here--unless you're a lawyer.


  1. In 1820 they would have hung them.

  2. Exactly. There's no going back to that, though.


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