(NEW YORK) -- One of the first men charged with piracy in the United States since the Civil War was sentenced to almost 34 years in federal prison in a New York courtroom Wednesday morning.
Prosecutors had asked Judge Loretta Preska to give Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse more than 30 years for his role in the failed hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, an American-flagged ship, off Somalia two years ago.
Defense attorneys had argued that Muse was driven to piracy by poverty and should get the minimum sentence, 27 years. In giving Muse 33 years and nine months, Preska cited the need for deterrence.
"For five days that must have seemed like an eternity to this victims, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse terrorized the crew of the Maersk Alabama," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. "Now he will pay for those five days and the events leading up to them."
Muse pled guilty last year to being part of an armed crew that stormed the Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean on April 8, 2009 and took its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage.
Muse was stabbed in the hand by a member of the 20-man crew during a struggle aboard the boat, and then tied up by the crew.
Unable to take control of the Maersk Alabama, the remaining three pirates grabbed Phillips and put to sea in a lifeboat. The Maersk Alabama's crew tried to trade Muse for Phillips but were rebuffed by the pirates.
Prosecutors said that Muse was the first pirate to board the Maersk Alabama, fired an AK-47 at Phillips, and speaking English, threatened Phillips with death.
On April 12, 2009, Navy Seal snipers shot and killed the three pirates in the lifeboat with Phillips and rescued Phillips. Muse was brought to United States to stand trial on charges of piracy.
Muse, whose exact age is unknown but was determined by a U.S. judge to be over 18, was indicted on 10 counts, including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and possession of a machine gun while seizing a ship by force. In addition to the Maersk Alabama attack, he was charged in connection with two other attacks on ships off Somalia in March and April 2009.
Muse pled guilty to six felony counts of kidnapping, hostage-taking and hijacking maritime vessels in May 2010, more than a year after his capture.
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