737 F.3d 1043 (6th Cir. 2013), 13-5189, United States v. Hammadi

Docket Nº:13-5189.
Citation:737 F.3d 1043
Opinion Judge:KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mohanad HAMMADI, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:James A. Earhart, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant. Joseph F. Palmer, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. James A. Earhart, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant. Joseph F. Palmer, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: MOORE, GIBBONS, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 17, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 1043

737 F.3d 1043 (6th Cir. 2013)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Mohanad HAMMADI, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 13-5189.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

December 17, 2013

         Argued: Nov. 19, 2013.

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         ARGUED:

         James A. Earhart, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant.

         Joseph F. Palmer, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

         James A. Earhart, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellant.

         Joseph F. Palmer, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, GIBBONS, and SUTTON, Circuit Judges.

         OPINION

          KAREN NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge.

          The government caught Defendant-Appellant, Mohanad Hammadi, as part of a sting operation in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It charged him with ten terrorism-related and two immigration offenses. He pleaded guilty. At sentencing, Hammadi asked the district court to depart downward from the guidelines-recommended sentence of life imprisonment on the basis of sentencing entrapment and sentencing manipulation. The district court refused to do so and imposed a life sentence. Hammadi now appeals and argues that the district court erred by not adjusting his sentence downward. Despite Hammadi's request to the contrary, we need not decide whether to recognize these doctrines now because Hammadi would not qualify

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for a departure under either one. The district court, therefore, did not abuse its discretion, and we AFFIRM Hammadi's sentence.

         I.

         Hammadi's story, as in many terrorism cases, begins with someone else. In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation of Waad Ramadan Alwan— an Iraqi national living in Bowling Green-after his fingerprints appeared on fragments of an improvised explosive device (" IED" ) in Iraq. During the investigation, the FBI introduced Alwan to a confidential human source (" CHS" ), who met with Alwan and recorded their conversations starting in August 2010. The CHS led Alwan to believe that the undercover government agent was part of a group sending money and weapons to the Mujahidin— Muslims engaged in Jihad, a holy war against infidels— in Iraq. During their conversations, Alwan described his past actions as an insurgent in Iraq to the CHS, including his use of IEDs and sniper rifles against American soldiers.

         Between September 23, 2010 and January 10, 2011, Alwan assisted the CHS in sending what Alwan believed to be money and weapons to the Mujahidin several times. By January 11, 2011, Alwan was asking to lead the Bowling Green cell of the CHS's fictional terrorist organization. The CHS instructed Alwan to recruit others, and afterward Alwan approached multiple people whom he suspected of having violent, anti-American views. Several individuals rebuffed his offers to join the cell. Hammadi accepted. Alwan then took Hammadi to meet with the CHS and vouched for Hammadi as an experienced Iraqi insurgent.

         In Iraq, as Hammadi would later tell the CHS and the FBI, he had participated in approximately ten IED attacks on American troops and convoys with at least two different cells, including al Qaida. Hammadi had been arrested for one of the IED attacks, but bribed his way free and fled to Syria. Once in Syria, he applied for refugee status in order to immigrate to the United States. On March 1, 2009, in a " Sworn Statement of Refugee Applying for Admission into the United States form," Hammadi answered " no" when asked if he had engaged in terrorist activity before. Presentence Report (" PSR" ) at 13, ¶¶ 41-42. Similarly, in December 2010, when asked on his application for a green card if he had engaged in terrorist activity, Hammadi answered " no." These two answers represent the conduct charged in Counts 11 and 12 in the Superseding Indictment. See R. 62 at 6-7 (Page ID # 334-35).

         Hammadi entered the United States in July 2009, initially settling in Las Vegas with the help of a Catholic charity. He had $900 to his name, brought only a carry-on bag filled with belongings, and spoke little English. He failed to find employment, moving eventually to Bowling Green to work at a poultry factory. Hammadi did so on the recommendation of Alwan, whose family he knew from Iraq and whom he had met in Syria. Hammadi eventually quit his work at the poultry factory, and he claimed to be indigent when Alwan approached him about joining the fictional terrorist cell in January 2011.

          For whatever reason, Hammadi agreed to accompany Alwan to a meeting with the CHS on January 25, 2011. At that meeting, the CHS explained the scheme for sending money and weapons to insurgents in Iraq, and Hammadi made recommendations as to how to accomplish their objectives. Then, on January 27, Hammadi and Alwan took $100,000 from the CHS and transported the money to a tractor trailer, believing that it would then find its way to the Mujahidin in Iraq. This conduct violated

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18 U.S.C. § 2339A and served as the basis for Count 1. See R. 62 (Super. Indictment at 1) (Page ID # 329).

         On February 15 and 16, Hammadi and Alwan packed two rocket-propelled grenade launchers (" RPGs" ), two machine guns, two boxes of plastic explosives, and two sniper rifles into duffel bags. The CHS informed them that these weapons were intended for al Qaida in Iraq. Hammadi and Alwan then took the weapons and placed them in hidden compartments of another tractor trailer, attempting to send the weapons to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A and 2339B. This conduct served as the basis for Counts 2 and 3. See R. 62 (Super. Indictment at 1-2) (Page ID # 329-30).

         After they delivered the weapons, the CHS told Hammadi and Alwan that they might ship surface-to-air missiles in the future. Hammadi responded with enthusiasm, expressing his support for sending such missiles given that one of his terrorist cells in Iraq had acquired eleven of them. On March 15, the CHS instructed Hammadi and Alwan that they would send two Stinger-missile systems as a test run, and the next day, Hammadi and Alwan loaded the Stingers into another tractor trailer. These actions also violated 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A and 2339B and made up the basis of Counts 4 and 5. See R. 62 (Super. Indictment at 2-3) (Page ID # 330-31). Furthermore, their conspiracy to deliver the surface-to-air missiles violated 18 U.S.C. § 2332g, which the government charged in Count 10. Id. at 5-6 (Page...

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