September 02, 2005

USA v. Richard Reid

One of the other lawyers in the office passed along the imposition of sentence in the United States District Court for District of Massachusetts in United States v. Reid. 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 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 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 go no further. This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and just sentence. It is a righteous sentence.

Let me explain this to you. We are not afraid of you or 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, 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 if you think you are a soldier. You are not----- you are a terrorist. And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not meet 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 are a big fellow. But you are not that big. You're no warrior. I've know warriors.

You are a terrorist. A species of criminal that is guilty of multiple attempted murders. In a very real sense, State Trooper Santiago had it right when you first were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were, and he said: "You're no big deal." You are no big deal.

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 wind carries freedom. It carries 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 sake that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their representation of you before other judges.

We Americans are all about freedom-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, 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 stands for freedom. And it always will.

Mr. Custody Officer. Stand him down."

UPDATE: Judge William C. Young sits in the District of Massachusetts rather than the Southern District of New York as I originally posted. Thanks to the faithful reader who brought it to my attention.

Posted by LMC at September 2, 2005 10:27 AM | TrackBack

That gave me chills. Seriously, that was beautiful. Thanks very much for posting that.

Posted by: RP at September 2, 2005 10:50 AM

A second comment, I just sent this around to as many of my friends, who may not know about this blog, as I could think of. As one of them said, it may not be the Gettysburg Address, but it is a damn fine statement just the same and deserves to go around the world. Thanks again for posting this.

Posted by: RP at September 2, 2005 11:08 AM


Posted by: rbj at September 2, 2005 12:16 PM

Good Gawd.

You couldn't have scripted a better speech for a freaking MOVIE.

Posted by: Brian B at September 2, 2005 01:39 PM

Wow. Just wow.

Posted by: John from WuzzaDem at September 2, 2005 01:53 PM


I had not heard a peep about this. I thought at first this must have been breaking news since I hadn't heard it anywhere else--and I thought that the hurricane might be overshadowing all other news and this would get buried. Then I did a quick search and found out this was a few years old--it's a shame that such a great speech wasn't picked up by the mainstream news and broadcast for the world to hear!

Posted by: Gullyborg at September 3, 2005 01:24 AM

Judge Young can kiss goodbye to any dreams he ever had about making it to the Supreme Court. A true shame if there ever was such a thing, he should be made Chief Justice just because of that one statement.

Posted by: bullwinkle at September 3, 2005 12:53 PM

I wanted to send this guy some fan mail, but the court's site ( does not show him as an actual sitting judge. Hate to party-poop, but are you sure this is legit?

Posted by: quiggs at September 3, 2005 03:17 PM

Quiggs - It is legit. It was in Boston, not NY.

Posted by: Mark at September 3, 2005 05:18 PM

William C. Young is now the Chief Judge in the United States District Court for the District of Massachuesetts. He is real. The New York Post ran a story on the sentencing on January 31, 2003.

Posted by: LMC at September 3, 2005 09:52 PM

Geez - Just tried to read this out loud to someone and couldn't get through it.

Posted by: John from WuzzaDem at September 3, 2005 10:01 PM

There’s some good stuff in legal judgements. One in Texas about a tobacco case class action springs to mind (can’t remember the case but one of you Llamas will) and a recent obiter dicta by Lord Hoffman in the UK was good.

Note the "Mr. Reid". He may be terrorist scum, convicted terrorist scum at that, but still the politesse. Probably for the last time in his life, too.

Posted by: Tim Worstall at September 4, 2005 01:21 PM

I can't believe I missed this. Thanks for posting it. It's always good to hear the words of great judges.

Posted by: WitNit at September 7, 2005 04:54 AM
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