Judge: LA terror plot cooperator broke probation

AP News
Posted: Oct 28, 2010 6:06 PM
Judge: LA terror plot cooperator broke probation

A terrorist convicted in a plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport violated his prison release rules by possessing a gun, according to a judge who also faulted the government for letting him live in a crime-infested housing complex where prostitutes and drugs flourished.

U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan did not say in his written ruling issued late Wednesday what the penalty might be for Abdel Ghani Meskini. A hearing was scheduled for Friday.

The judge faulted Meskini for possessing a handgun in 2007, trying to obtain an AK-47 last fall and for failing to admit to authorities that he tried to buy the assault rifle. But he found Meskini was not guilty of other offenses, including claims that he associated with felons and frequented establishments where illegal drugs were sold.

"The government's attempt to put Meskini in jail for associations about which it knew or should have known for several years is disingenuous at best," Keenan wrote.

Meskini pleaded guilty in March 2001 to eight charges, including conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, for his role in aiding a plot to set off explosives at the airport in the "millennium plot" that was designed to be carried out at the turn of the century. The plot was thwarted when a coconspirator was caught as he tried to cross into Washington state from Canada in an explosives-laden vehicle in December 1999.

Credited for cooperating with investigators, Meskini was sentenced to six years in prison. The sentence carried an additional five years of probation during which Meskini was not to commit another crime, possess a firearm, associate with criminals or go where illegal drugs were sold.

Meskini, an Algerian, was freed from prison in 2005 and settled in the Atlanta area, where he took a job as a housing complex manager in Buckhead, Ga.

Last March, the U.S. Probation Department accused Meskini of violating his supervised release in nine ways, including by trying to possess a firearm, by trying to buy an AK-47 assault rifle, by associating with criminals and by making false statements to authorities.

A prostitute who described Meskini as a good friend and a drug dealer were among witnesses at a hearing Keenan presided over two weeks ago.

The judge faulted the government for failing to tell Meskini not to work at the housing complex where Keenan said "narcotics sales and prostitution occurred openly and persistently."

Meskini has been incarcerated since late last year, when immigration authorities picked him up. He has applied for asylum.

His lawyer, Mark DeMarco, who did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Thursday, has said Meskini could face an additional three years in prison if he was found to have violated his probation.