Jose Padilla's prison sentence was increased to 21 years -- following the recommendation of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the accused terrorist was originally sentenced to 17 years, the appeals court determined the punishment was too lenient.
Padilla was identified as a person of interest following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. According to official reports, Padilla traveled throughout the Middle East between 2001 and 2002. He is also suspected of attending an al-Qaeda training camp -- where he was trained to construct and detonate radioactive, or "dirty," weapons.
Upon his arrival back in the United States, Jose Padilla was arrested and held on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Although he was never charged in the alleged conspiracy, he was held as an enemy combatant in a South Carolina military prison.
As reported by Chicago Tribune, Padilla was "held in isolation for more than three years." In 2006 he was transferred to Miami, Florida, where he was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy.
In August 2007, Jose Padilla was convicted of "conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim people abroad, conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism, and providing material support for terrorism." U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke sentenced him to 17 years in a super-maximum security prison.
During the original sentencing, Judge Cooke also gave Padilla credit for the years he was held as an enemy combatant. She further stated that she believes Padilla was "clearly manipulated" by his co-defendants, Islamist propagandist Kifah Jayyousi and Adham Hassoun.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Cooke has vehemently defended her decision, as she was "dismayed by the harshness" of Padilla's three-year confinement as an enemy combatant. Padilla and his attorneys claim he was regularly exposed to deplorable conditions as a form of torture.
In 2011, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Cooke's sentence was too lenient. In their written decision, the court underlined the fact that Jose Padilla poses a "heightened risk of dangerousness." They cited his prior involvement with a Chicago gang called the "Latin Kings," and his training as an al-Qaeda operative. The court also noted Padilla's prior criminal history, which included nearly 20 previous arrests.
As a result of the appeals court decision, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke added four years to Jose Padilla's original sentence. She also stressed that he will "remain in a super-maximum security prison."
[Image via CBS Miami]