Fact Check

Judge William Young -- Shoe Bomber Sentencing

Judge William Young delivers stinging rebuke to 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid at his sentencing hearing.

Published Mar 24, 2003

Claim:   Judge William Young delivers stinging rebuke to "shoe bomber" terrorist Richard Reid at his sentencing hearing.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2003]

United States v. Reid — Final Statements by Judge Young

Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutive one with the other. That's 80 years.

On Count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years consecutive to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you on each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 for the aggregate fine of $2 million.

The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you the $800 special assessment.

The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need not go any further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you.

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.

Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists.

We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.

In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you're no big deal. You're no big deal.

What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty and admit you are guilty of doing.

And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.

Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely.

It is for freedom's seek that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their, their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.

Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.

The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.


Origins:   On 22 December 2001, Richard Colvin Reid, a 29-year-old British citizen flying as a passenger on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, attempted to ignite what other passengers described as a wire protruding from one of his shoes. When Reid attacked a flight attendant who confronted him about this suspicious activity, other passengers responded to the commotion and rushed to help subdue him. According to various accounts, one French man reached over the seat to pin Reid's arms as he struggled while other passengers held his legs; a doctor on board sedated Reid while another passenger wielded a fire extinguisher as a weapon. After passengers finally restrained Reid using belts and
anything else available for the purpose, they were eventually able to remove his shoe.

What Reid had been trying to ignite was a fuse leading to plastic explosives hidden in the sole of his high-top suede sport shoe — enough

explosives, prosecutors later maintained, to blow a hole in the fuselage of the plane and kill all 197 people aboard. (His plot failed, authorities
speculated, because his shoes were moist from sweat.) Flight 63 was diverted to Boston, where Reid was taken into

As U.S. federal prosecutors prepared their case against "shoe bomber" Reid on eight charges (including attempted murder and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction), he surprised them in October 2002 by pleading guilty to all charges in order to spare his family pain and publicity. Reid maintained that he was a member of al-Qaida, pledged his support to Osama bin Laden, and declared himself an enemy of the United States. Prosecutors and the FBI said witnesses had reported Reid was present at al-Qaida training camps, and that he had help making the bomb from an al-Qaida bomb maker.

At his hearing on 30 January 2003, Reid was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge William Young. After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah," defiantly stated "I think I ought not apologize for my actions," and told the court "I am at war with your country." Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted above, a stinging condemnation of Reid in particular and terrorists in general.

Additional information:

    Transcript of Reid hearing Transcript of Reid hearing   (CNN)

Last updated:   16 June 2013

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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