‘Shoe Bomber’ Reid Given 3 Life Terms

Times Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Richard Reid was given three life sentences plus 110 additional years in prison Thursday as a federal judge here extolled the virtues of American freedom and justice, and the angry terrorist warned the United States that Allah “will give victory to his religion.”

As the sentencing hearing ended, with Reid dispatched to spend the rest of his days behind bars, the tall, beefy “shoe bomber” suddenly charged to his feet and, while being forcibly removed from the crowded federal courtroom, shouted one final epithet: He said a “day of judgment” is coming for America.

The heated exchange brought to a close one of this country’s most brazen criminal acts in the post-Sept. 11 era, in which the 29-year-old British citizen and Muslim convert had tried to set off two bombs in his sneakers on a trans-Atlantic flight carrying nearly 200 passengers and crew members.


Reid becomes the second high-profile defendant to be sentenced to prison since the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. But unlike American Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh, who sobbed in sorrow and was given just 20 years, Reid did not go quietly.

Rather, he spoke at some length -- often haughtily -- of his fealty to terrorist figure Osama bin Laden, and he spat out his hatred for an America he said has “raped and tortured” innocent Muslims around the world.

The wrath of the almighty, he foretold, “will give victory to those who believe and he will destroy those who wish to oppress the people because they believe in Allah.”

U.S. District Judge William G. Young was not unnerved by Reid; in fact, he mocked him.

“You’re a big fellow,” the judge said. “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.”

The judge then pointed to the American banner flying behind his bench and, his voice rising too, issued his own warning:

“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.”


Reid then suddenly leapt to his feet and shook his left fist at the judge.

“Custody!” the judge cried to the courtroom marshals. “Stand him down!”

Four marshals surrounded Reid, grabbing his arms and his back and shoving him toward a side door.

Even then Reid had the last word. “That flag will be brought down on the day of judgment,” he shouted, “and you will see in front of your Lord my Lord, and then we will know.”

His outburst stunned the courtroom, especially because he had sat quietly through most of the 90-minute hearing, often appearing uninterested as he drooped his head, chewed his fingernails or yanked on his scraggly goatee.

In October, he abruptly pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, saying he was a member of Al Qaeda and had hoped to disrupt the American airline industry.

The judge Thursday acknowledged that had any of the six matches that Reid lit actually ignited the bombs, it not only would have hurt the airline business but also would have had far more devastating effects.

Though the government has asserted that the plastic explosives would have broken the plane apart, Young was uncertain what really would have happened at 30,000 feet.


Even if the plane had not broken apart, he said many of the passengers and crew would have been killed or maimed, and the pilot would have been forced to descend rapidly in search of a safe landing.

“But this is above the North Atlantic Ocean,” the judge noted. “It’s not as if he could land it. There was nowhere to go.”

Equally frightening, the judge added, is that “the hole in the fuselage could have sucked people out.”

The hearing began with three crew members of American Airlines Flight 63 telling the judge of the horror of that night. All three passionately urged that Reid never enjoy freedom again.

Flight attendant Carole Nelson said she still is haunted by the fear she saw in the faces of 20 children who were passengers. “Richard Reid was on a mission of evil, a mission of destruction and a mission of murder,” she said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Gerard T. Leone Jr. also called for the maximum punishment allowable short of a death sentence, saying Reid will always be a threat to American lives.


“A life sentence is the only sentence that will fairly punish this defendant,” the prosecutor said. “He has exhibited defiance, and a lack of remorse, and a lack of regret.”

But federal public defender Owen S. Walker urged the judge to sentence Reid to just 30 years immediately, and to delay further sentencing until a classified report about the case could be released to the public.

Walker argued that the document would put his client in a better light, and that once the public was made aware of its contents, the judge would be moved to be lenient.

But Young, saying he saw nothing helpful to Reid in the document, sided with the government’s argument that releasing the document could harm the war on terrorism.

The judge also sparred with Walker over Reid’s story that Islam had rescued him from a life of drugs and petty crime.

“He was on the edge of the abyss,” Walker said. “Islam kept him from it. He had the good luck to find something he felt saved him.”


When Walker suggested that there was no more “personal hatred” in Reid, the judge responded, “Well, we don’t tolerate impersonal hatred either.”

And when Walker said that there are “millions of people around the world” who hold anti-American views and are not sentenced to prison, the judge shot back, “They don’t go around trying to blow up planes.”

Reid spoke next, rising to his feet in his sand-colored jail uniform. He gestured about. His tone was soft and his English broken.

“I start by praising Allah because life today is no good,” he said. “I admit, I admit my actions and I further, I further state that I done them. I further admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah. OK?”

He told the judge that while he attempted to kill passengers and crew members, “your government has killed 2 million children in Iraq. OK? If you want to think about something, 20 against 2 million, I don’t see no comparison. OK?

“Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons.” He conceded that his fate was in the judge’s hands, but ended by saying, “I bear witness to Muhammad. This is Allah’s message.”


He slouched in his chair.

The judge proclaimed: “Mr. Richard C. Reid, harken now to the sentence the court imposes upon you.”

He gave him life on three of the charges dealing with a weapon of mass destruction and interfering with crew members and attendants on the flight, which took off from Paris en route to the United States on Dec. 22, 2001.

On the charge of using and carrying a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence, the judge gave Reid 30 years.

On four other charges, dealing with attempted murder and placing the bomb on the aircraft, the judge sentenced Reid to a total of 80 years.

Young further imposed a $2-million fine, and ordered him to pay $298.17 in restitution to flight attendant Andre Bousquet, whom Reid bit on the hand as she tried to subdue him in his window seat.

The judge also levied a $5,784 fine to be paid to American Airlines, and an $800 special court assessment.


“This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes,” the judge said. “It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.”

He went on to lambaste Reid as anything but a hero or martyr.

“We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid,” the judge said. “We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.

“You,” he added, “are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist