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Bomber receives multiple life terms

Afghan-born man seen unremorseful

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NEW YORK -- A New Jersey man who set off small bombs in two states, including a pressure cooker device that blasted shrapnel across a New York City block, was sentenced Tuesday to multiple terms of life in prison by a judge who repeatedly said it a miracle nobody was killed.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, was criticized by a prosecutor for failing to show remorse and was scolded by a victim for not apologizing to the 30 people he injured.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said it was hard to reconcile the "reasonable enough" man he saw in court with the terrorist who tried to kill as many people as he could when he left his home early the morning of Sept. 17, 2016, with two pressure-cooker explosives and a bag full of smaller bombs.

"You sound like most people and yet your actions are totally at odds with your voice," Berman said.

"We saw videos," he said, referring to multiple videos at his fall trial that showed Rahimi dragging bombs in two suitcases and a backpack through Manhattan streets, setting one down a half-hour before it exploded in the upscale Chelsea neighborhood and another a few blocks away that was discovered and disabled before it could explode.

"It's really hard to square the way you appear in court to that other behavior," Berman said.

Regardless, the judge said, Rahimi deserved multiple life prison terms. One life term was mandatory but the judge exercised his discretion by imposing life sentences for counts that Rahimi's defense lawyer said deserved only a 15-year sentence. He also ordered $562,803 in restitution.

Berman called Rahimi, 30, a "clear and present danger" and said it was too big a risk not to impose a life sentence, especially after Rahimi offered "not an ounce of justification" for his crimes.

The Chelsea explosion happened just hours after a small pipe bomb exploded along a Marine Corps road race in Seaside Park, N.J., frightening participants but injuring no one.

The bombings triggered a two-day manhunt that ended in a shootout with police in Linden, N.J. Rahimi was shot several times but survived. Police officers also were injured.

Given a chance to speak, Rahimi, shackled at the ankles, portrayed himself as a victim, saying he came to America as a 7-year-old boy with no hatred for anyone and was raised by a father in a household where there was no mention of what his father experienced during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

He described how his father went to law enforcement officials on multiple occasions to report suspicious behavior he had seen in his son, but ultimately felt let down.

"I don't harbor hate for anyone," Rahimi said before describing how he believed law enforcement agencies targeted him once he became a practicing Muslim.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley immediately followed Rahimi, saying he had just "blamed everyone else" after causing so much destruction through crimes "fueled by hate."

"He has shown no remorse," Crowley said.

Defense attorney Xavier Donaldson called it ironic that his client had once aspired to be a police officer and worked as a security guard after studying criminal justice at a community college.

After the sentence was announced, Berman invited several victims watching the proceedings to speak.

Pauline Nelson, 48, of Brooklyn stepped to the podium. She was hospitalized when the car she was driving was jolted by the explosion. She's still being treated for muscle spasms in her back.

"You never apologized to anyone in the courtroom," she said, staring at Rahimi, who sat at the defense table, shackles on his ankles. "You have no remorse for what you did."

A Section on 02/14/2018

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