Chicago, Dec 12: IIT alumnus Vikram Buddhi was on Friday sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and an additional three years of supervised release by a US court for posting hate messages in 2006 against former US president George Bush and calling for bombings of American infrastructure.
Indiana court District Judge James Moody said the supervised release would be monitored by a probation officer. Buddhi was arrested in 2006 after being convicted of making threats to Bush, the then vice president Dick Cheney and their wives, and calling for bombings of US infrastructure.
The 38-year-old PhD student of Purdue University, convicted in 2007, had fired his lawyer yesterday when his sentencing hearing began. He represented himself in the court and said "the trial was unfair. I am not the kind of person the government is trying to portray".
After the sentence, Buddhi wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, spoke for a little while with his former lawyer. He was then taken into custody and led out of the courtroom. Buddhi has a right to appeal against the judgement in a Chicago court within 10 days.
Since Buddhi was representing himself, the notice of appeal can be filed through the court or by his previous lawyer Arlington Foley, whom he had fired but remained his stand-by counsel.
"Every person has a right to appeal. The court has asked me to ensure that (the notice of appeal) is filed," Foley told reporters after the sentencing. Buddhi has been in jail since 2006 and Foley said the Bureau of Prisons would take that into account before determining the total time that he would now be required to spend in a US prison.
Typically if somebody is sentenced to 57 months, he would serve approximately 85 percent of that time and "most likely" would be given credit for the months he has already spent in jail," Foley said adding that Buddhi has already spent a couple of years in jail and that could be deducted from his sentence of 57 months.
After completing his sentence, Buddhi could also be deported to India. While the deportation would be handled by a different authority in Chicago, Foley said if Buddhi is a candidate for deportation, the fact that "he is a convicted and the nature of the charge against him would weigh very heavily when the authorities determine whether he should be deported".
During the two-day sentencing hearing, Buddhi argue that since he had got "ineffective assistance" of the counsel and faced the "gravest error of justice", his sentence should be shortened. "I got the short end of the stick," he added.
Fighting his own case, the 38 year old PhD student from Purdue University tried hard to convince the judge and put up several arguments, even at the cost of making Moody impatient.
Moody ruled that he did not find the defendant`s "arguments and the mitigating factors he presented persuasive enough" to give him a shorter sentence. Not giving up, Buddhi repeatedly argued before the judge that that the messages posted on the internet were not "threats" but "just opinions" and if any unbiased persons had read the mails, they would notice that there is "no intention of inflicting any harm".
"Every person has a right to his or her opinion," he said.
Anybody who goes to online message boards should read a warning that tells people that the messages are just opinion of the person posting them and should not be taken seriously for any other purposes, Buddhi argued.
He said he did not have anything against the US and "I support the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
"Those messages were posted just to challenge the mind, to cajole, to see what the effect would be if a different picture is presented.”
US troops are killing Iraqis, Afghansitanis and the bad guys. If instead of saying US troops are killing Iraqis, it is said that Iraqis are killing US troops, the picture changes and becomes very dramatic".
He mentioned news reports of "US soldiers raping and killing young women" and how people are being "blindfolded" and torture tactics being used. "But just to challenge the mind, you turn the picture around. Many people don`t view the picture from the other end," he said.
He stated he had a good educational background and had won awards while he was teaching mathematics at Purdue. Trying to strengthen his argument, Buddhi said he has many Anglo-Saxon friends, had assisted war veterans, had never been to Iraq and attended the premier Indian Institute of Technology from where other graduates also come to the US.
Commenting on the verdict, Foley said Buddhi`s sentence was "appropriate" and "in fact it was a fair sentence in light of the circumstances, even if Buddhi does not think so. It was a well thought out, well-reasoned sentence by the judge who I thought was kind," he added.
On whether Buddhi`s sentence would have been different, had he let Foley argue his case for him, the attorney remarked that Buddhi "was given ample opportunity to express everything he wanted to about the case and I think he did as good a job as he possibly could under the circumstances".
"I was amply and adequately prepared to argue Buddhi`s sentencing. However I cannot say...whether his outcome would have been different if I had argued this case. It was his decision to represent himself as he felt that it would be appropriate for him," he said even as he pointed out that Buddhi`s first lawyer John Martin, who was also fired by him, "did a very good job for him, prepared very good briefs and arguments".
Buddhi had earlier today filed a motion for a new trial which was denied. Before announcing the sentence, the judge let Buddhi speak for an hour and ten minutes on why his sentence should be shortened.