Jose Padilla, once accused of plotting with al-Qaida to blow up a radioactive ''dirty bomb,'' was sentenced Tuesday to 17 years and four months on terrorism conspiracy charges that don't mention those initial allegations.
The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke marks another step in the extraordinary personal and legal odyssey for the 37-year-old Muslim convert, a U.S. citizen who was held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant after his 2002 arrest amid the ''dirty bomb'' allegations.
Prosecutors had sought life in prison, but Cook said she arrived at the 17-year sentence after taking into consideration the ''harsh conditions'' during Padilla's lengthy military detention at a Navy brig in South Carolina.
''I do find that the conditions were so harsh for Mr. Padilla ... they warrant consideration in the sentencing in this case,'' the judge said.
Cooke also imposed prison terms on two other men of Middle Eastern origin who were convicted of conspiracy and material support charges along with Padilla in August. The three were part of a North American support cell for al-Qaida and other Islamic extremists around the world, prosecutors said.
The jury in his trial was told that Padilla was recruited by Islamic extremists in the U.S. and filled out an application to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.
Cooke said that as serious as the conspiracy was, there was no evidence linking the men to specific acts of terrorism anywhere.
And yet it merits 17 more years after four years of torture and mental debilitation? Lewis Koch looks at Citizen Padilla