They each got sentences slightly longer than forty years, rather than life imprisonment, apparently because the RPG that one of them was holding was broken and incapable of firing, or because U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson believes that life imprisonment is cruel and unusual punishment. Is firing an RPG at a Navy ship not cruel and unusual punishment for those on the ship?
A federal prosecutor said a Somali man convicted of piracy stood ready to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at a Navy ship four years ago.
The man, Mohamed Abdi Jama, was sentenced Thursday to 41-1/2 years in federal prison for his role in the April 2010 pirating attempt on the dock landing ship Ashland. Another Somali, Abdicasiis Cabaase, was sentenced to 42-1/2 years in prison for his role in the attack.
They were the last two of five Somalis convicted and sentenced this week for trying to hijack the Ashland.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Hatch said Jama held an RPG that day, but that it was broken and incapable of firing. Still, the sailors didn’t know that. The captain may well have believed that the pirates were capable of blowing up the bridge, he said.
“It’s a very threatening weapon. I do believe he stood ready to perform,” Hatch said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had sought life prison terms for each of the five Somalis, but the judge ruled that would violate the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. He equated the case to attempted hostage taking.
U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson said the sentences handed out this week, though less than life, “send a message to those who commit piracy.”