Convicted terrorism plotter Jose Padilla will serve his term at a Colorado federal prison known as “Supermax” for its strict, isolated conditions and roster of infamous inmates, prison officials said Friday.
Padilla, 37, was sent from a Miami prison to the high-security facility in Florence, Colo., on Thursday, said Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Felicia Pounce. Padilla was sentenced in January to about 17 years, but counting time already served and good behavior deductions his projected release date is Feb. 9, 2021 — or about 13 years.
At Florence, Padilla joins such well-known inmates as “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski, Sept. 11 attacks plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and Eric Rudolph, convicted of the 1996 Olympics bombing. Other neighbors among the 485 inmates are attempted shoe-bomber Richard Reid, FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen and Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.
Padilla attorney Michael Caruso said in an e-mail Friday that Supermax is “a living hell” where inmates spend most days in 7-foot-by-12-foot cells and have little contact with the outside world. Caruso noted that others convicted of supporting terrorism, such as the “Lackawanna Six” group in upstate New York, were not sent to the nation’s toughest prison.
Caruso called the decision “yet another example of Jose being treated differently and in a more punitive fashion than others who have been accused of similar crimes. I genuinely fear that Jose’s mental health will erode to an even greater degree.”
Padilla and two co-defendants were convicted in August of three terrorism-related charges after a three-month trial in Miami federal court. The other two men, 45-year-old Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, 46, remained in custody Friday at Miami’s downtown detention center.
The three were part of a support cell that sent money, recruits and supplies to Islamic extremist groups around the world, prosecutors said at trial. They had faced possible life sentences, but each was given lesser terms by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke.
All three are appealing their convictions and sentences, and federal prosecutors are also appealing the sentences as too lenient.
Padilla was arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on suspicion of plotting with al-Qaida to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the U.S., although those allegations were not made at his trial. Testimony showed that Hassoun recruited Padilla at a Florida mosque to attend an al-Qaida terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was held in military custody for 3 1/2 years and was the subject of numerous legal challenges to his continued detention. He also claimed he was mistreated and tortured at a Navy brig, but Bush administration officials denied that.