Full transcript of U.S. District Judge James Moody's statement
In a compelling sentencing hearing this morning, U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian to 57 months in jail, the maximum allowed under Al-Arian's guilty plea for "conspiracy to make or receive contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Specially Designated Terrorist." Al-Arian will get credit for time served (he has been imprisoned for 38 months already), and will finish out the last year and a half of his sentence at the FCI Coleman Federal Penitentiary north of Tampa, before being deported.
Speaking to Al-Arian at the hearing, the Judge Moody said, "You are a master manipulator. The evidence is clear in this case. you were a leader of the PIJ." Commenting on Al-Arian's level of compliance with PIJ terrorism, Moody continued, "[y]ou lifted not one finger. To the contrary, you laughed when you heard of the bombings." Sentiments close observers of the investigation and trial have known for quite some time.
Further, Moody knocked down the defense's position that Al-Arian was merely working on behalf of pro-Palestinian charities, telling Al-Arian: "[y]our only connection to widows and orphans was that you create them," and blasted Al-Arian's repeated abuses of American hospitality, stating: "[y]our children attend the finest universities in this county, while you raise money to blow up the children of others."
In a stirring letter to Judge Moody, Stephen Flatow, father of Alisa Flatow, an American victim of PIJ terrorism, requested the maximum possible sentence for Al-Arian, writing:
I am writing to urge you to impose the most severe sentence possible when you sentence Sami Al-Arian on May 1, 2006.
I am the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered by PIJ in an April 9, 1995, terror attack. No one has ever said that Sami Al-Arian was in Gaza the day the bomb went off. And we have never accused Sami Al-Arian of recruiting the suicide bomber, of driving the truck or pushing the plunger on the bomb that killed Alisa that Sunday morning. However, by pleading guilty "to mak[ing] or receiv[ing] contributions of funds, goods or services to or for the benefit of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad," I believe Mr. Al-Arian at long last admits his role in providing the material means to kill Alisa and seven others that morning and is just as culpable as the actual bomber in her death.
I could tell you much about Alisa and my family's experiences since her death. My words are necessarily inadequate to describe our loss because you cannot see something buried deep inside us, our broken hearts. For the first seven years after Alisa's death, you could not mention her name to her mother because the mere mention of her name would bring tears to her mother's eyes. As for me, when a cold wind blows, I often catch myself looking down at my chest to see if the hole I feel is there.
Alisa's murder at the hands of cowards and faceless mandarins shocked us, her extended family, friends and people we do not personally know. On that Sunday, in one instant, Alisa went from being a vibrant young lady, proud of who and what she was, into a mortally wounded casualty, her brain shredded by shrapnel.
When I saw her at the hospital the next morning, her eyes were the same beautiful brown they were when she was 2 years old, but that morning they stared into space. There was no recognition of my face; Alisa saw nothing. The spiritual leader of our family and good friend was gone at the age of 20 years. The oldest child, the oldest sister, is now and will forever be the youngest member of our family.
After donating her organs for transplant into six very sick people, we brought her back home to New Jersey for burial; 2,000 people attended her funeral, the majority of whom had never met Alisa. But they came because they sensed that something evil had happened and that the only way to fight evil is to stare it in its face and say, "You are not going to get me."
Alisa was not politically active. What attracted her to Israel in 1995 was the same thing that attracted her five times previously - it was her belief that the best place to learn about yourself and your religion is to visit and live in the land where it is practiced around the clock, where the policemen, the bus drivers and the merchants share a heritage with you.
There was also something intangible. Every time that Alisa returned from one of her trips to Israel, she came back not just a better Jew, but a better person too.
We will never be able to understand what drives people to enable others to commit terrorist acts. We cannot understand why or how God allowed people like Sami Al-Arian and his cohorts to carry out their plans. The only way I can combat their wickedness is to try to make myself a better person each day. I try each day to let the people who provide resources to terrorists such as PIJ know that you will not intimidate us, you will not scare us, and you will not stop us from living our lives as fully as possible.
If I had the ability to make this statement in open court, I would want Mr. Al-Arian to know that, unlike him, we are not going to use code words on the telephone and in our communications; we are not going to slink around as he did, advocating murder and mayhem and praising death under the guise of free speech. I want him to know we are going to fight him and his ilk in the open - in the courthouse, in the Congress, and in the courtroom of public opinion, and we are going to win.
I want Mr. Al-Arian to know that we are going to continue to fight for the right to live safely in our communities and to travel safely to all corners of the world. We are not going to stand by idly while terror's supporters sitting cozily here in the United States send young men and women to their deaths in the name of God.
I once again urge you to impose the harshest sentence possible on Mr. Al-Arian. Thank you for your consideration.
Very truly yours,
Stephen M. Flatow