Friday, November 15, 2002
Palestinian Sentenced to Prison for Making False Threats to Crash Plane
By ALLISON LOMAS, Staff Writer
A Palestinian refugee faces possible deportation, but no additional prison time, after being sentenced yesterday to less than the time he has already served for threatening to crash a commercial airliner earlier this year.
Mohammad Mahmoud Bachir made the threats and resisted federal officers at Los Angeles International Airport while being transported by the INS to a detention facility in New York. He said in court yesterday that his actions were caused by his desire to remain near his son who lives in Anaheim.
U.S. District Judge Lourdes G. Baird of the Central District of California sentenced him to eight months in prison and three years supervised release for making a false threat and forcefully resisting a federal officer.
Bachir pled guilty to the charges in July.
He faced a statutory maximum of six years in prison, but Baird reduced the sentence because the offenses involved a single incident with little or no deliberation.
He has been held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons since the February incident and will be released into INS custody while that agency decides how to deal with a man who already was ordered deported by an immigration judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rupa Goswami said.
On Feb. 15, INS officers were escorting Bachir from a detention facility in San Pedro to another in New York. He was being detained because he violated a condition of his earlier release from INS custody by violating a restraining order filed against him by his wife, a U.S. citizen.
Bachir admitted in a plea agreement that when the transport van reached the tarmac at LAX he told the agents that they were “going to have to do what you have to do, and I’m going to do what I have to do.”
After a prolonged struggle the officers were forced to physically remove him from the van, at which point he began to yell threats to the effect of “I will crash this plane if I have the chance, I don’t care if this airplane goes down,” according to the plea agreement.
Once seated on Northwest Airlines flight 936, Bachir struck the window next to his seat with his elbow and repeated the earlier threats.
He was removed from the plane at the request of the flight crew. No other passengers had boarded the plane at that time.
Bachir explained to the court that his wild behavior was prompted by his desire not to be separated from his teenage son. Bachir’s attorney, Deputy Federal Public Defender Humberto Diaz, described his client as “agitated and frustrated.”
The defendant, whose hands were shackled, apologized to the court and said that he takes “full responsibility” for his behavior.
The 43-year old said that he did not want to be removed from his son because he hopes to reestablish a relationship with the boy after spending several years in INS custody.
Bachir was convicted in Massachusetts of parental kidnapping in 1995 for taking his young son to Lebanon. An immigration judge ordered Bachir be deported to Lebanon, but the country refused to admit him because he was not Lebanese, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Owens said.
Bachir was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon to Palestinian parents and came to the United States in 1981.
The INS was forced to release Bachir last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees who are subject to deportation, but whom no recognized country is willing to accept, cannot be held indefinitely.
Owens, Goswami, and Diaz said yesterday that they did not know how the INS would deal with Bachir, who is still deportable.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company