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US court hears dispute over 5 Somali pirates’ sentences

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court heard arguments Wednesday on whether a judge overstepped his authority when he imposed less than the mandatory life prison term for five Somali pirates whose mistaken attack on a Navy ship left one of their own dead but caused no harm to any of the sailors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin L. Hatch told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Congress determined that life imprisonment is the appropriate punishment regardless of whether anyone dies at the hands of pirates.

“Here’s a person that as a class is a dangerous person in the eyes of Congress,” Hatch said. “Congress has provided there is a life punishment, and I think it’s important that be followed.”

Geremy Kamens, an attorney for the pirates, argued that U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson got it right when he ruled that life imprisonment would be unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment for a crime in which so little actual harm was done. Jackson sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging from 30 to 42

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