Legal experts: Shahzad has no leverageBy ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO
June 22, 2010
By pleading guilty so quickly to the terror indictment against him, Faisal Shahzad lost any bargaining chips he had accumulated when he cooperated almost immediately with the government after his May 3 arrest, legal experts said Monday.
Although law enforcement and government officials have said Shahzad gave valuable information about other co-conspirators in the Times Square bombing plot, he showed by his court statements that he was unrepentant. Before his plea, he indicated he was willing to indiscriminately kill civilians to protest U.S. government policies to avenge attacks against Muslims.
At some point, prosecutors likely saw they were dealing with a character as remorseless as a hitman, said Manhattan defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, who is not connected with the case.The key, said Lichtman, was the fact that the government issued a so-called "Pimentel" letter Monday which states that prosecutors will not recommend any sentence, leaving it up to the court's discretion.
"The reason you do a Pimentel letter is either you can't reach agreement on cooperation or they [prosecutors] are so repulsed by you," said Lichtman.
Professor Carl Tobias, of the University ofRichmond School of Law, said it's possible Shahzad could get a pretty stiff sentence. "It doesn't seem like there was much leverage on his side, Tobias said. "It is a pretty quick ending. . . . The question now is what government learned."
A stiff sentence and lack of government help at sentencing when Shahzad faces a possible life sentence may also deter others who are thinking of cooperating, added Lichtman.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) told Newsday that he believed Shahzad provided "pretty valuable" information to investigators. But he also thinks that the way Shahzad warned of possible new attacks showed how real the threat of militant Islam remains.
"I think we have to take him at his word," said King. "It shows how really dangerous he was and how close we came to mass casualties and death."
Lichtman said Shahzad was foolish not to keep silent when he was arrested in May and demand a lawyer.
Tobias thinks that Shahzad's statement before his plea may have been a way for him to save face with his friends in the Islamic world. Face-saving may also have been at play with prosecutors, who can now say they did nothing special for Shahzad if he is sentenced to anything but a life term, said Lichtman.
But King said he thinks Shahzad's warning is telling us something else: "We can't let our guard down at all."