There is nothing to “bargain”

As a former prosecutor, I find John Brennan’s statement that we could plea bargain with Abdulmutallab to be nothing short of silly.Typically prosecutors enter into plea bargains if they feel that the evidence may not be sufficient to convict, or, if it would be necessary to reveal the identity of confidential informants (or information) to secure a conviction, or, if it is possible to obtain important information from the suspect.

To me, none of those circumstances applies. The first two are easy… a conviction is a slam dunk, and the only witnesses needed at trial are some of the passengers, and a chemist who can identify the material found on Abdulmutallab as an explosive.

As to the third, I suspect I will differ from most, but to me, Abdulmutallab is a foot soldier who is unlikely to possess any meaningful information. But, what if he does, you ask?

Both he and his attorney know at best, life in prison is a certainty. If he has valuable information, now would be the time to reveal it, not months or years later when the information is too old to be of any use. And, as the prosecutor, said information is given with no promises from the government, and no plea bargain for a reduced sentence. All Abdulmutallab gets is an agreement to bring his “cooperation” (if useful) to the attention of the court at the time of sentencing. Period.

But, as his attorney also is aware, time is running out. If his client knows something that could avert another attack, said information best be given before that attack. Otherwise, his client will just rot in jail… forever.

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The Sound Off Sister was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and special trial attorney for the Department of Justice, Criminal Division; a partner in the Florida law firm of Shutts & Bowen, and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami, School of Law. The Sound Off Sister offers frequent commentary concerning legislation making its way through Congress, including the health reform legislation passed in early 2010.


  1. araich on January 4, 2010 at 5:38 am


    How exactly do you bargain with a terrorist when he was already sentenced to death when he accepted his suicide mission?


    • Wyndeward on January 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

      From a position of strength, Rick, for a broad definition of the word "strength."

      You have made your position clear and it is the terrorist's choice to either accept his fate as Allah's will or to share whatever information he has.

      That said, even that is a travesty — the man should have been taken into Federal custody and interrogated, wrung out like a dishrag for whatever information he might have and then sent to Gitmo for the duration.  Obama's "strategy" of "we like you, why don't you like us" isn't going to work, any more than Jimmy Carter's repeated apologies to the Iranian mullahs did, back in the day.

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