Judge Refuses to Vacate Somali Pirate's Sentence

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SH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter lands on USS Ashland
An SH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, lands on the flight deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) as it conducts a visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) drill, June 14, 2019. (U.S. Navy photo/Anaid Banuelos Rodriguez)

NORFOLK, Va. — A federal judge in Virginia has refused to vacate the life sentence handed down to a Somali man convicted in a 2010 attack on a U.S. Navy vessel off the coast of Africa.

A judge in Norfolk issued a ruling Friday rejecting Mohamed Abdi Jama's claim that his sentence should be overturned because his lawyer was ineffective.

Jama was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for piracy. He filed a motion last year claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Jama claimed his lawyer failed to understand the laws and fact needed to prove piracy and failed to argue jurisdictional and other law regarding piracy offenses and territory. He also argued that his lawyer failed to advise him of plea deals and failed to negotiate or explain any plea offers.

The judge said the court record provides no support for Jama's claims and shows that his lawyer shared a plea offer by prosecutors of 25 years in prison. Jama's lawyer said in an affidavit that his client refused to cooperate.

Jama claimed that he was never told about a 25-year plea offer, and that his attorney advised him to reject a 30-year plea offer.

The judge noted that regardless of whether Jama's lawyer told him about any plea offer, Jama testified that he was not willing to testify against any of his codefendants as part of a plea deal.

According to court records, Jama and his codefendants approached the USS Ashland in April 2010 in the Gulf of Aden and opened fire with AK-47s. Crew members of the Ashland returned fire and took the pirates into custody.

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