José Padilla (born October 18, 1970), also known as Abdullah al-Muhajir or Muhajir Abdullah, is a United States citizen convicted of aiding terrorists. Padilla was arrested in Chicago on May 8, 2002, and was detained as a material witness until June 9, 2002, when President Bush designated him an illegal enemy combatant and transferred him to a military prison, arguing that he was thereby not entitled to trial in civilian courts. Padilla was held for three-and-a-half years as an "enemy combatant" after his arrest in 2002 on suspicion of plotting a radioactive "dirty bomb" attack. That charge was dropped and his case was moved to a civilian court after pressure from civil liberties groups.
On January 3, 2006, he was transferred to a Miami, Florida, jail to face criminal conspiracy charges. On August 16, 2007, José Padilla was found guilty, by a federal jury, of charges against him that he conspired to kill people in an overseas jihad and to fund and support overseas terrorism. He was widely described in media as a suspect of planning to build and explode a "dirty bomb" in the United States, but he was not convicted on this charge.
On January 22, 2008, Padilla was sentenced by Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida to 17 years and four months in prison. His mother, Estela Ortega Lebron was relieved but announced that they would appeal the judgment: "You have to understand that the government was asking for 30 years to life sentence in prison. We have a chance to appeal, and in the appeal we're gonna do better. Padilla is serving his sentence at the high-security Supermax prison ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado.
Life before imprisonment
Jose Padilla was born in Brooklyn, New York
, but later moved to Chicago, Illinois
, where he joined the Maniac Latin Disciples street gang
and was arrested several times. During his gang years, he maintained several aliases
, such as José Rivera, José Alicea, José Hernandez, and José Ortiz. He was convicted of aggravated assault as a juvenile when a gang member he kicked in the head died. After serving his last jail
sentence, he converted to Islam
,. One of his early religious instructors was an Islamic teacher who professed a nonviolent philosophy, and Padilla appeared at the time to be faithful to his mentor's teachings. Padilla and Adham Amin Hassoun both attended Masjid Al-Iman mosque in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
"for most of the 1990s and were reportedly friends."
U.S. authorities accused Hassoun of consorting with radical Islamic fundamentalists, including Al-Qaeda. Hassoun was arrested in 2002 for overstaying his visa and was charged in 2004 with providing material support to terrorists. By that time Hassoun had already been charged with perjury, a weapons offence, and other offenses.
Padilla married an Egyptian woman named Shamia'a and had two sons who were infants at the time he was arrested in 2002; at his bail hearing his wife and children were believed to be overseas at this time. "According to court records in Florida, he was divorced from his wife of five years, Cherie Maria Stultz, in March 2001. The pair married January 2, 1996. She filed for divorce, describing the marriage as "irrevocably broken," and placed an ad in a local business newspaper in January 2001 serving notice she was seeking divorce. . . But Broward County court records also show that on July 1, 1994, Padilla changed his name to one word: "Ibrahim." He was married under that name, and divorce papers identify him as Jose Ibrahim Padilla.
Padilla traveled to Egypt
, Saudi Arabia
, and Iraq
. On his return, he was arrested by federal agents at Chicago
's O'Hare International Airport
on May 8
, and held as a material witness on a warrant issued in the state of New York
stemming from the September 11, 2001 attacks
On June 9, 2002, two days before District Court Judge Michael Mukasey was to issue a ruling on the validity of continuing to hold Padilla under the material witness warrant, President George Bush issued an order to Secretary Rumsfeld to detain Padilla as an "enemy combatant," and Padilla was transferred to a military brig in South Carolina without any notice to his attorney or family. The order "legally justified" the detention using the AUMF, which authorized the President to "use all necessary force against . . . such nations, organizations, or persons" and by opining that a U.S. citizen detained on U.S. soil can be classified an enemy combatant. (This opinion is based on the decision of the United States Supreme Court in the case of Ex parte Quirin, a case involving the detention of a group of German-Americans in the United States working for Nazi Germany).
According to the text of the ensuing decision from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Padilla's detention as an "enemy combatant" (pursuant to the President's order) was based on the following reasons:
- Padilla was "closely associated with al Qaeda, an international terrorist organization with which the United States is at war";
- He had engaged in "war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism";
- He had intelligence that could assist the United States in warding off future terrorist attacks; and
- He was a continuing threat to American security.
In October 2008 91 pages of memos drafted in 2002 by officers at the Naval Consolidated Brig, Charleston became public.
The memos indicate that officers were concerned that the isolation and lack of stimuli was driving Padilla, Yasser Hamdi and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri insane.
Because Padilla was being detained without any criminal charges being formally made against him, he, through his lawyer, made a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
, naming then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
as the respondent to this petition. The government filed a motion to dismiss the petition on the grounds that:
- Padilla's lawyer was not a proper "Next Friend" to sign and file the petition on Padilla's behalf;
- Commander Marr of the South Carolina brig, and not U.S. Secretary Rumsfeld, should have been named as the respondent to the petition; and
- the New York court lacked personal jurisdiction over the named respondent Secretary Rumsfeld who resides in Virginia.
The New York District Court disagreed with the government's arguments and dismissed its motion. However, the court further declared that President Bush had constitutional and statutory authority to designate and detain American citizens as "enemy combatants" and that Padilla was entitled to challenge his "enemy combatant" designation and detention in the course of his habeas corpus petition. Since the New York District Court had in some way disappointed all sides of this legal battle, both Padilla and the government made an interlocutory appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
On December 18, 2003, the Second Circuit declared that:
- Padilla's lawyer is a proper "Next Friend" to sign and file the habeas corpus petition on Padilla's behalf because she, as a member of the bar, had a professional duty to defend her client's interests. Further, she had a significant attorney-client relationship with Padilla and was far from being some zealous "intruder" or "uninvited meddler";
- Secretary Rumsfeld can be named as the respondent to Padilla's habeas corpus petition, even though it is South Carolina's Commander Marr who had immediate physical custody of Padilla, because there have been past cases where national-level officials have been named as respondents to such petitions;
- the New York District Court had personal jurisdiction over Secretary Rumsfeld even though Rumsfeld resides in Virginia and not New York because New York's "long arm statute" is applicable to Secretary Rumsfeld, who was responsible for Padilla's physical transfer from New York to South Carolina; and
- despite the legal precedent set by Ex parte Quirin, "the President lacked inherent constitutional authority as Commander-in-Chief to detain American citizens on American soil outside a zone of combat". The Second Circuit relied on the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952), where the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that President Truman, during the Korean War years, could not use his position and power as Commander-in-Chief, created under Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, to seize the nation's steel mills on the eve of a nation-wide steelworkers' strike. The extraordinary government power to curb civil rights and liberties during crisis periods, such as times of war, lies with Congress and not the President. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress, and not the President, with the power to suspend the right of habeas corpus during a period of rebellion or invasion.
Declaring without clear Congressional approval (per ), President Bush cannot detain an American citizen as an "illegal enemy combatant" the court ordered that Padilla be released from the military brig within 30 days. However, the court had stayed the release order pending the government's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Supreme Court
On February 20
, the Supreme Court
agreed to hear the government's appeal. The Supreme Court heard the case, Rumsfeld v. Padilla
, in April 2004, but on June 28
, the court dismissed the petition on technical grounds because:
- It was improperly filed in federal court in New York instead of South Carolina, where Padilla was actually being detained; and
- the Court held that the petition was incorrect in naming the Secretary of Defense as the respondent instead of the Commanding Officer of the naval brig who was Padilla's actual custodian for habeas corpus purposes.
District Court, South Carolina
The case was refiled and a decision in Padilla's favor was issued in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina. On June 13, 2005, the Supreme Court denied the government's petition to have his case heard directly by the court, instead of the appeal being first heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia.
On September 9, 2005, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled that President Bush had the authority to detain Padilla without charges, in an opinion written by judge J. Michael Luttig. In the ruling, Luttig cited the joint resolution by Congress authorizing military action following the September 11, 2001 attacks, as well as the June 2004 ruling concerning Yaser Hamdi.
Attorneys for Padilla and civil liberties organizations, filing friend of the court briefs, argued that the detention was illegal. They said it could lead to the military holding anyone, from protesters to people who check out what the government considers the wrong books from the library. The Bush Administration denied the allegations. Their argument noted that the Congressional military authorization (the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) pertained only to nations, organizations or persons whom the President "determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the September 11, 2001 attacks, or harbored such organizations or persons." They advanced a reading of this language would suggest a Congressional limitation to the military power would assure an appropriately narrow range of detainees and that the power to detain would last only so long as the Congressional authorization was not revoked or remained in effect by its terms. Similarly, they notes that the Yaser Hamdi Supreme Court case (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld) upon which the court relied, required a habeas corpus hearing for any alleged enemy combatant who demands one, claiming not to be such a combatant, which would require additional judicial or military tribunal oversight over each such detention.
The argument in the general public concerning the legality of Padilla's detention also examined one of the provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 enacted on October 17, 2006, which states:
But the Military Commission Act of 2006 does not apply by its terms to José Padilla, since he is a U.S. citizen, although other provisions of the Military Commission Act of 2006 may provide civil and criminal amnesty to those involved in his case, who might otherwise face civil right lawsuits or criminal liability for unlawfully detaining someone. The immunity provisions may be tested in a civil suit brought by Padilla against John Yoo discussed below.
On November 22
's front page broke the news that Padilla had been indicted on charges he "conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas. Padillia's lawyer correlated the indictment's timing as avoidance of an impending Supreme Court hearing on the Padilla case: "the administration is seeking to avoid a Supreme Court showdown over the issue". None of the original allegations put forward by the U.S. government three years prior, the claims that held Padilla in the majority in solitary confinement
throughout that period, were part of the indictment: "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
announced Padilla is being removed from military custody and charged with a series of crimes" and "There is no mention in the indictment of Padilla's alleged plot to use a dirty bomb
in the United States. There is also no mention that Padilla ever planned to stage any attacks inside the country. And there is no direct mention of Al-Qaeda
. Instead the indictment lays out a case involving five men who helped raise money and recruit volunteers in the 1990s to go overseas to countries including Chechnya
. Padilla, in fact, appears to play a minor role in the conspiracy. He is accused of going to a jihad
training camp in Afghanistan
but his lawyers said the indictment offers no evidence he ever engaged in terrorist activity." Considering Padilla was held for years in military custody with no formal charges brought, many were shocked by this move by the George W. Bush presidential administration, and some reasoned that a repeat of such a process would allow the U.S. government to detain citizens indefinitely without presenting the cause that would eventually be tried. A transfer to civilian court was denied the U.S. Administration by a federal appeals court in December 2005. The court recognized "shifting tactics in the case threatens [the government's] credibility with the courts". This was countered by Solicitor General Paul Clement
: the federal appeals court decision "defies both law and logic," he stated in a request to the Supreme Court
for immediate transfer on December 30, 2005, one day after Padilla's lawyers filed a petition of their own charging the U.S. President
of overstepping his authority.
On January 3, 2006, the United States Supreme Court granted a Bush administration request to transfer Padilla from military to civilian custody. Padilla was transferred to a federal prison in Miami from the Navy brig in Charleston while the Supreme Court decided whether to accept his appeal of the government's authority to keep citizens it designates "enemy combatants" in open-ended military confinement without benefit of trial.
On April 3, 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court declined, with three justices dissenting from denial of certiorari, to hear Padilla's appeal from the 4th Circuit Court's decision that the President had the power to designate him and detain him as an "enemy combatant" without charges and with disregard to habeas corpus.
Padilla was indicted on three criminal counts in the Miami, Florida criminal proceeding to which he was transferred from military custody. He pled not guilty to all charges. The trial commenced on May 15, 2007, and lasted for 3 months.
On August 16, 2007 - after only a day and a half of deliberations - the jury found Padilla guilty on all counts. He was scheduled to be sentenced on December 5, 2007, but his sentencing was postponed to January due to the death of a family member of the judge scheduled to sentence him. He was sentenced on January 22, 2008 to 17 years and 4 months in federal prison. His co-defendants received 15 year, eight month and 12 year, eight month sentences respectively.
Padilla's sentence is currently being served at the "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colorado.
As of February 28, 2008, Padilla had appealed his conviction and sentence, and the government had cross-appealed.
Partial dismissal of counts against Padilla
Two weeks after the presiding judge claimed prosecutors were "light on facts" in its conspiracy allegations, one of the three charges against Padilla was dismissed and another was dismissed in part.
The first of the three counts Padilla was charged with, conspiracy to murder (punishable by life imprisonment), was dismissed on August 16, 2006, on the grounds that it was duplicative of the other two counts pending against him. The second count was conspiracy to materially aid terrorists under (punishable by five years in prison) and the third was (punishable by 15 years in prison). The trial court ordered that the government elect only a single criminal statute in its second count of the indictment.
However, on January 30, 2007, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reversed the ruling and reinstated a charge of conspiracy to "murder, kidnap, and maim.
Allegations of torture during imprisonment
Padilla's legal team filed a motion to dismiss the case, alleging that during his imprisonment he has been subjected to torture
, including sensory deprivation
, sleep deprivation
, enforced stress positions
and administered with various drugs including possibly LSD
Delays in prosecution
Two additional motions also filed in October 2006, argued that the case should be dismissed because the government took too much time between arresting Padilla and charging him.
In essence, the argument is that for constitutional speedy trial
purposes, the arrest took place prior to his detention as an enemy combatant, and not simply when he was transferred to civilian custody.
Mental competency hearing
In January 2007 a mental competency hearing
was scheduled for February 22
, 2007 over allegations of torture by the military, after two mental health experts hired by the defense to conduct a competency evaluation
concluded Padilla is not mentally fit for trial and a third evaluation submitted by the Bureau of Prisons found him mentally competent. The judge also ordered that Sandy Seymour, technical director of the Charleston brig, Craig Noble, brig psychologist, Andrew Cruz, brig social worker, four employees of the Miami federal detention center, and a Defense Department lawyer appear at the hearing.
On February 22, 2007, at the competency hearing Angela Hegarty, a psychiatrist hired by Padilla's defense, said that after 22 hours of examining Padilla it was her opinion that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. She said that he exhibited “a facial tic, problems with social contact, lack of concentration and a form of Stockholm syndrome." She diagnosed his condition as post-traumatic stress disorder. She told the court "It's my opinion that he lacks the capacity to assist counsel. He has a great deal of difficulty talking about the current case before him." In cross examination Federal prosecutor John Shipley pointed out that Padilla had a score of zero on Hegarty's post-traumatic stress disorder test and pointed out that this information was omitted in her final report. Hegarty responded that this omission was an error on her part. Another psychiatrist hired by the defense testified along the same lines. The Miami Herald reported that a "U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatrist who believes Padilla is fit to face trial and Defense Department officials -- are expected to testify at the ongoing hearing before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke."
Criticism of his conviction
Andrew Patel, Padilla’s lawyer, said after the guilty verdict, “What happened in this trial, I think you have to put it in the context of federal conspiracy law, where the government doesn’t have to prove that something happened, but just that people agree that something should happen in the future. In this case, it was even more strained. The crime charged in this case was actually an agreement to agree to do something in the future. So when you’re dealing with a charge like that, you’re not going to have—or the government’s not going to be required to produce the kind of evidence that you would expect in a normal criminal case.”
Paul Craig Roberts criticized the jury's verdict in the Padilla case as having "overthrown" the Constitution and doing far more damage to the US' liberty than any terrorist could.
Andy Worthington wrote "[Seventeen] years and four months seems to me to be an extraordinarily long sentence for little more than a thought crime, but when the issue of Padilla's three and half years of suppressed torture is raised, it's difficult not to conclude that justice has just been horribly twisted, that the President and his advisors have just got away with torturing an American citizen with impunity, and that no American citizen can be sure that what happened to Padilla will not happen to him or her. Today, it was a Muslim; tomorrow, unless the government's powers are taken away from them, it could be any number of categories of 'enemy combatants' who have not yet been identified.
Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute raised several issues with the Padilla seizure in an amicus brief he filed to the Supreme Court. In it, he answers questions such as whether the president can lock up any person in the world and then deny that person access to family, defense counsel, and civilian court review? And what about the use of “harsh conditions” and “environmental stresses”? Can such techniques be employed against anyone once the president gives an order? Those legal questions remain unsettled even today. By abruptly moving Padilla from the military brig and into the ordinary criminal justice system, the Bush administration was able to forestall Supreme Court review of the president’s military powers.
On January 4, 2008, Padilla and his mother filed suit against John Yoo, who was sued in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Case Number CV08 0035)
The complaint seeks damages based on the alleged torture of Padilla attributed by the complaint to Yoo's torture memoranda. The claim is that Yoo caused Padilla's damages by authorizing his alleged torture through his memoranda.
According to his attorney and others, Padilla has changed the pronunciation of his family name from the typical pah-dee-yah
(with the ll
vocalized as /ʎ/, as in quesadilla
and other Spanish
words and names) to puh-DILL-uh
. (See also Ll
.) Padilla's Muslim name Abdullah
, which he began using during his jail sentence, literally means "Abdullah the migrant". "al-Muhajir" is a laqab
) rather than an adopted family name. Padilla is not related or known to be connected in any way to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir
- March 2002: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, purported mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and Al-Qaida's operational planner and organizer, allegedly suggests José Padilla target up to three high-rise buildings that use natural gas with a radiological "dirty bomb."
- May 8, 2002: Padilla arrives at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after an overseas trip, carrying $10,526, a cell phone and e-mail addresses for al-Qaida operatives. He is arrested on a material witness warrant.
- June 9, 2002: Padilla is listed as an "enemy combatant" and transferred to the Defense Department.
- Dec. 18, 2003: The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit orders Padilla to be released from military custody within 30 days and if the government chooses, tried in civilian courts.
- Jan. 22, 2004: The Second Circuit suspends its ruling after the Bush administration appeals the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- March 3, 2004: Lawyers for Padilla meet with him for the first time since his incarceration at a naval brig in June 2002.
- June 28, 2004: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rules that Padilla should have filed his appeal in federal court in Charleston, S.C., because he is being held at a Navy brig there, rather than in New York.
- Sept. 9, 2005: A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rules that the government can continue to hold Padilla indefinitely.
- Oct. 25, 2005: Padilla appeals the appeals court decision to the Supreme Court. The Bush administration's deadline for filing arguments is Nov. 28.
- Nov. 22, 2005: Padilla is indicted by a federal grand jury in Miami on charges that he conspired to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas. The charges do not include any allegations of a "dirty bomb" plot or other plans for U.S. attacks.
- Dec. 21, 2005: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in an opinion authored by Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig, chastises the administration for using one set of facts to justify holding Padilla without charges and another set to persuade a grand jury in Florida to indict him. Luttig said the administration has risked its "credibility before the courts."
- Jan. 4, 2006: Supreme Court agrees to let the military transfer Padilla to Miami to face criminal charges, overruling the Fourth Circuit.
- Jan. 12, 2006: Padilla pleads not guilty to charges alleging he was part of a secret network that supported Muslim terrorists. The charges could bring a life in prison sentence.
- April 3, 2006: Supreme Court rejects Padilla's appeal, although Chief Justice John Roberts and other key justices said that they would be watching to ensure Padilla receives the protections "guaranteed to all federal criminal defendants."
- Aug. 16, 2006: Federal trial court in Miami, Florida dismisses conspiracy to murder charges against Padilla, leaving the most serious charge still pending a charge that could bring a 15 year prison sentence.
- Oct., 2006: Padilla moves to dismiss the federal criminal case against him alleging that he had been tortured and that proceedings had been delayed too long from his arrest in May 2002.
- Jan. 30, 2007: The United States Court of Appeals reverses the August 2006 decision and reinstates the conspiracy to murder charge with a potential life sentence.
- May 15, 2007: Trial commences in federal trial court.
- July 13, 2007: Prosecution rests case in federal criminal trial.
- August 16, 2007: Jury reaches verdict in federal criminal trial. Padilla is found guilty on all charges relating to conspiracy.
- January 22, 2008: Padilla is sentenced to 17 years, 4 months in prison on the criminal charges of conviction by the U.S. District Court.
- Lewis, Neil A "Judge Says Terror Suspect Can't Be Held as an Enemy Combatant". New York Times. .
- Markon, Jerry "U.S. Can Confine Citizens Without Charges, Court Rules". Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- Sontag, Deborah "In Padilla Wiretaps, Murky View of ‘Jihad’ Case". New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- Anderson, Curt "Judge: Lawyer Leaked Padilla Transcripts". Associated Press, Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
- Jose Padilla: legal news and resources JURIST
- Interview with Donna Newman, Counsel for Alleged Dirty Bomber Jose Padilla in Guernica Magazine (guernicamag.com)
- Village Voice article on the Padilla/Oklahoma City connection
- 'A travesty of justice: Jose Padilla found guilty' from www.wsws.org
- Terror suspect's arrest puts Hispanics on edge
- "The Unjust Detention of Jose Padilla", Commentary by Joanne Mariner in FindLaw, September 14, 2005
- "Jose Padilla and the Milligan Problem", JURIST, October 27, 2005
- "Charging Padilla: Mootness and Chief Justice Rehnquist", JURIST, November 23, 2005
- Padilla's Real Message: The Grace Period is Over (op-ed by Padilla habeas counsel Jonathan Freiman), JURIST, April 4, 2006
- Shackling of Jose Padilla and other case documents at cryptome.org
- "A Trial for Thousands Denied Trial", Commentary by Naomi Klein in The Nation, March 12, 2007
- Amy Goodman interviews forensic psychiatrist Dr. Angela Hegarty, who spent 22 hours with José Padilla. on Democracy Now, August 16, 2007.
- Amy Goodman talks to one of Jose Padilla’s attorneys, Andrew Patel, about the verdict. on Democracy Now, August 17, 2007.
- Convicting Padilla: Bad News for All Americans—Especially Journalists, by Dave Lindorff, CounterPunch, 17 August 2007
- "Mother Jones' Full Coverage of Jose Padilla", Mother Jones, May 22, 2007.