Jose Padilla was convicted of federal terrorism support charges Thursday after being held for 3 1/2 years as an enemy combatant in a case that came to symbolize the Bush administration's zeal to stop homegrown terror.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was once accused of being part of an al-Qaida plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the U.S., but those allegations were not part of his trial.
Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi were convicted of conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas, which carries a penalty of life in prison. All three were also convicted of two terrorism material support counts, which carry potential 15-year sentences each.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke set a Dec. 5 sentencing date for all three defendants.
Padilla's conviction caps a saga that began with far more dramatic allegations at the time of his May 2002 arrest.
Jurors began their deliberations on Wednesday after three months of testimony.
The ethnically diverse panel of seven men and five women heard witness accounts and dozens of phone conversations — most of them in Arabic — that were intercepted by the FBI during an investigation that began in 1993 and ended in 2001.
The White House thanked the jury for a "just" verdict.
"We commend the jury for its work in this trial and thank it for upholding a core American principle of impartial justice for all," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House. "Jose Padilla received a fair trial and a just verdict."
Estela Lebron, Padilla's mother, said she felt "a little bit sad" at the verdict but expected her son's lawyers would appeal.
"I don't know how they found Jose guilty. There was no evidence he was speaking in code," she said, referring to FBI wiretap intercepts in which Padilla was overheard talking to Hassoun.
Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was initially held as an enemy combatant. Authorities first claimed he was part of an al-Qaida plot to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a U.S. city. In late 2005, his name was added in to an existing Miami terrorism support indictment, even as the legal battle continued over President Bush's authority to detain him without charge.
The "dirty bomb" allegations disappeared and were not included in the trial, in part because Padilla was never provided a lawyer or read his Miranda rights when he was interrogated about the alleged plot while in military custody.
Padilla and his co-defendants — Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi — face up to life in prison on charges of conspiring to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas and up to 15 years on each of two terrorism material support counts.
Prosecutors said the three were part of a North American network to supply al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia and elsewhere with mujahedeen fighters, money and military equipment.
They have contended the defendants had phone conversations in code, using words and phrases such as "tourism" and "smelling fresh air" to mean "jihad." Defense attorneys disputed those interpretations.
Prosecutor Brian Frazier said Padilla was the group's star recruit who filled out a form in 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.
"There was only one purpose to go to these camps, and that was to learn to kill," Frazier said Tuesday in closing rebuttal arguments.
Defense lawyers for Hassoun and Jayyousi said they were focused solely on providing humanitarian aid to persecuted Muslims, not violence.
Padilla's attorneys said he traveled overseas not to join al-Qaida but to study Islam and Arabic in Egypt.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press