FILE PHOTO: Ahmad Khan Rahimi appears in Union County Superior Court for a hearing in Elizabeth
By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New Jersey man convicted of planting bombs in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood in 2016 received two life sentences on Tuesday, after expressing no remorse in a Manhattan courtroom for engineering the explosion that injured 30 people.
"I don't harbor hatred towards anyone," Ahmad Khan Rahimi said in a courtroom packed with spectators, including some of the people who were injured when one of his bombs exploded on Sep. 17, 2016. "But through life experience, I have learned to understand why there's such frustration between the Muslim community overseas and the American people."
Rahimi, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, said that he had been "harassed" by authorities while traveling because of his Muslim appearance after he started practicing the religion.
Rahimi also said that his father had reported him to the Federal Bureau of Investigation several years ago because he feared that Rahimi was getting involved in terrorism, and believed in the slogan, "see something, say something." The FBI took no action, he said.
"My father failed like the system failed him," Rahimi said.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said Rahimi had offered no explanation for his behavior that would warrant imposing less than the two life sentences, one of which was mandated by federal law. Rahimi's total sentence is life, followed by another mandatory term of 30 years, followed by a second term of life.
"I get it," Berman told Rahimi after announcing the sentence. "You might have grievances, and they might be genuine, but there's no comparison between those slights or grievances you might have and the acts you undertook as the Chelsea bomber."
One person who was near the blast, Pauline Nelson, also stood up to address Rahimi.
"I'm an immigrant like you," she told him. "I came here and I did what I had to do."
"You have no remorse for what you did," she said. "God forgive you."
Rahimi's lawyer, Xavier Donaldson, argued that the court should impose a sentence of only 15 years or less on top of the mandatory 30-year and life terms. He said consecutive life sentences would not "show the world justice."
In addition to the bombs in Manhattan, Rahimi was accused of planting a bomb on the route of a charity running race in New Jersey, which exploded without injuring anyone, and shooting at New Jersey police before being captured. He still faces separate charges in New Jersey over those accusations.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)