MIAMI, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A U.S. judge has delayed sentencing for Jose Padilla, allowing the convicted terror plotter to have visits from his family for the first time in years.
Padilla was initially charged with trying to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" on U.S. soil, though prosecutors eventually dropped that charge. After a trial on federal conspiracy and terrorism charges, the Broward County resident was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.
A federal appeals court has ordered a new sentencing hearing that could lengthen his term.
Padilla had been held in the federal "Supermax" prison in Florence, Colo., but was recently transferred to a federal detention center in Miami to confer with counsel on the resentencing -- which his lawyer, Michael Caruso, succeeded in delaying by about eight weeks at a hearing Wednesday.
Caruso has argued that Padilla has been treated more severely in prison than others convicted of similar crimes, and wrote in court documents Padilla's mental state had deteriorated due to years of isolation in prison -- including a three-year period when he was held as an "enemy combatant" in a Navy brig without being charged, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
"Since his arrest in May of 2002, the government has systematically attempted to destroy Jose by psychologically torturing him and imprisoning him under the severest of conditions," Caruso wrote. "Not surprisingly, this psychological torture has taken a toll on Jose."
Federal prosecutors said the Colorado facility was "not some black hole of Calcutta," and argued the court had not taken into account Padilla's full criminal history in sentencing him in 2007 to less than the 30-year guideline for his conviction.
Padilla was a Chicago street gang member who prosecutors say became a radical Islamist while serving time in prison and trained with al-Qaida in 2000.