US & World

'Chelsea Bomber' Ahmad Rahimi sentenced to multiple life terms

2016 bombing injured 30 people

NEW YORK (CNN) - Convicted New York City bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi was sentenced to multiple life sentences in prison by a federal judge on Tuesday.

Rahimi, 30, was previously found guilty of eight federal charges in connection with a September 2016 bombing that injured 30 in the Chelsea neighborhood.

"The nature of the crime was heinous, wanton and life-threatening ... it's inexplicable that anyone would do that intentionally," said US District Judge Richard Berman.

Rahimi, a Muslim who federal prosecutors say attempted to radicalize other jail inmates while awaiting sentencing, also was ordered to pay about $563,000 to victims.

Rahimi spoke to the judge, saying he didn't come from Afghanistan as a child with hate in his heart.

"I grew up amongst you guys, when I started following (my religion), practicing it. That's when I started" noticing discrimination, Rahimi said in his emotionless five-minute statement. He became a naturalized US citizen in 2011.

Rahimi talked about being targeted for being a Muslim, mentioning he was always picked out in airports by security.

Prosecutors had used a Rahimi diary as evidence that he wanted to be a part of jihad, but in court Tuesday Rahimi didn't take responsibility for the bombing.

Father calls him a 'terrorist'

On Monday, in an interview with WNBC, Rahimi's father called his son a terrorist, but said Rahimi is glad no one died in the incidents.

"He did it as a terrorist ... this is terrorist," Mohammad Rahami, who goes by a different last name, said in the interview. "He told me, 'Thank God I didn't kill anybody, that's good news for me,' " the elder Rahami said.

Rahimi, known as the "Chelsea Bomber," was found guilty on eight charges in late 2017.

He was convicted of charges including the use and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a public place, destroying property by means of fire or explosives, and using a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence -- namely, the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.

Education and family visits

His sentencing attorney, Xavier Donaldson, requested in a letter to the judge that Rahimi, as part of his sentencing, "be allowed to avail himself of any educational opportunities" that he might qualify for in prison.

"Since his arrest, Mr. Rahimi has completed classes in business, entrepreneurship and drama while in BOP (Federal Bureau of Prisons) custody," the letter said.

Further, his attorney requested that "the court recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Mr. Rahimi be housed in a location as close to Virginia as possible to facilitate family visitation. We make this request primarily because since Mr. Rahimi's arrest, he has only been allowed approximately six family visits."

Radicalizing other inmates

In late 2017, federal prosecutors said Rahimi provided inmates with copies of terrorist propaganda and jihadist materials, including speeches by Osama bin Laden and militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki -- both of whom were killed in 2011-- along with bomb-making instructions, books on jihad, and issues of the al Qaeda-backed magazine Inspire, prosecutors said.

Rahimi "has been attempting to radicalize fellow inmates in the Metropolitan Correction Center by, among other things, distributing propaganda and publications issued by terrorist organizations," according to a letter from then-Acting US Attorney Joon H. Kim to Judge Berman.

Rahimi let other inmates view the items on his laptop and gave them electronic copies, Kim's letter said. Discs of the materials were found in two inmates' possession.

Prosecutors said Rahimi began distributing these materials in October 2017, if not earlier.

Bombings in Chelsea and New Jersey

Rahimi was arrested and charged after a pressure cooker bomb went off in New York's Chelsea neighborhood the night of September 17, 2016. A second pressure cooker bomb was found a few blocks away, on 27th Street, but it didn't detonate.

The bomb that went off in Chelsea shattered windows, vaulted a steel dumpster more than 100 feet in the air and sent people running from packed restaurants and bars on a Saturday night.

Earlier the same day, a bomb went off near the start of a Marine Corps charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

During the trial, the prosecution presented evidence -- including DNA and fingerprints -- linking Rahimi to the bombs that were placed in New Jersey and New York.

"By some miracle, no one was killed that day," Assistant US Attorney Shawn Crowley said in her opening statement in the trial.

Two days after the bombs went off, police ended a manhunt for Rahimi with a shootout in Linden, New Jersey. Rahimi and two police officers were wounded in the shootout.

Rahimi faces separate charges in other jurisdictions in connection with the Seaside Park bomb, a backpack containing improvised explosive devices found the following day at a transit station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the shootout with police before he was taken into custody.


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