Padilla, 43, was convicted of conspiracy and providing support for a terrorism group. He's already spent more than 12 years in solitary confinement, enduring some of the harshest incarceration conditions ever imposed on a U.S. citizen.
If prosecutors get what they want, Padilla — a broken man, his lawyer says — could be in for even more punishment.
Padilla is scheduled to be re-sentenced Tuesday after an appeals court ruled that the 17 years and four months imprisonment initially imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke was not enough. That punishment would have seen him released in May 2022, at age 51.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a prison term of no more than 30 years for Padilla, who converted to Islam in a Broward jail in the 1990s, was recruited at a Sunrise mosque and later signed up for al-Qaida training. The prosecution suggests the minimum he could legally get is 20 years and 10 months.
Padilla's lawyer, Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso, did not say exactly how much punishment he should face, instead highlighting the extraordinarily severe treatment Padilla has received at the hands of government operatives. That mistreatment, he said, merits a lesser penalty.
In a break from legal tradition, Caruso repeatedly refers to Padilla by first name in the court filings, an attempt to humanize him.
The defense portrays Padilla as a middle school dropout and fast food restaurant worker who was easily manipulated by sophisticated terrorist operatives.
Most importantly, Caruso wrote, Padilla has been completely broken and subdued by aggressive and "inhumane" tactics, including constant isolation.
"Jose has always been peaceful and compliant with his captors. He was, and remains to the time of this [court] filing, docile and resigned," Caruso wrote.
"Many of the conditions Jose experienced were inhumane and caused him great physical and psychological pain and anguish … All of the deprivations and assaults … were employed in concert in a calculated manner to cause him maximum anguish and to 'break' him," Caruso wrote. "As is evident to anyone who has had any contact with Jose in the ensuing years … [it has] succeeded."
Can you imagine these conditions:
At the brig, the defense said Padilla was held in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer, his family or the outside world. The intent: "to maximize his disorientation, discomfort, hopelessness, and despair."
According to court records, interrogators assaulted and screamed at him, shackled him for hours in "excruciating stress positions," and threatened to kill him. They also used extreme temperature changes, glaring lights and darkness to disorient him, confined him to a windowless cell and injected him against his will with substances they said were truth serums, the defense wrote.
In America? Yup, and it hasn't stopped:
The harsh treatment of Padilla continued after his sentencing, the defense wrote.
Padilla has been in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami awaiting re-sentencing for the past two years.
But he was kept in the notorious "Supermax" federal prison in Florence, Colo. — which one former warden called "a clean version of hell" — from 2008 to late 2012. He will likely be sent back there after Tuesday's re-sentencing.
Padilla spends 24 hours a day in solitude in a cell the size of a small bathroom, with just five hours a month of exercise in an outdoor cage that Supermax inmates call "the dog run." He's allowed no physical contact visits and just one monthly "social" phone call.
Nevertheless, the prosecutors are asking for 30 years this morning.
UPDATE -- Judge Cooke sentenced Jose Padilla to 21 years, which is what Caruso asked for and 9 years less than the government's request.