United States v. Thavaraja, No. 12-4330-cr (2d Cir. Jan. 23, 2014) (Walker, Livingston, and Chin), available here

This summary was prepared by noted criminal defense attorney Francisco Celedonio, Esq., who is also a member of the Board of Directors of Federal Defenders of New York, Inc.:

The government appealed a prison sentence of 108 months, arguing that it was substantively unreasonable, and that the district court (Judge Dearie) abused its discretion in imposing a sentence substantially below the applicable Guidelines range. The Circuit disagreed and affirmed the sentence in this published decision. 
Pratheepan Thavaraja, a native of Sri Lanka, pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Defendant was the principal procurement officer for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ("LTTE"), a militant separatist group in northern Sri Lanka engaged in a civil war against the Sri Lankan government. The State Department designated LTTE a "foreign terrorist organization" in 1997. Defendant purchased at least $20 million worth of military grade weapons and materials used to make suicide bombs at the direction of the LTTE leadership. Additionally, defendant played a role in a scheme to bribe State Department officials to remove the LTTE from the foreign terrorist organization list.  

Defendant's Guidelines, after application of the so-called "terrorism enhancement," see U.S.S.G. § 3A1.4(a), placed him at offense level 37 and Criminal History Category VI. Thus, the Guidelines range was 360 months-to-life; the combined statutory maximum was 240 months (180 months for the material support conspiracy and 60 months for the bribery conspiracy). The district court recognized the difficulties inherent in deriving a "reasonable sentence," including the prosecution of "people who certainly pose no direct threat to the United States;" and that the defendant had been incarcerated for a lengthy period of time (five years) during which he had been separated from his family. The court also noted the inherent violence of the civil war at issue. The district court sentenced defendant to 108 months and 60 months to run concurrently. 

Acknowledging the deferential standard of appellate review for substantive reasonableness, the Circuit rejected the government's claim that the "more than 50% reduction from the applicable guidelines" was substantively unreasonable. The Court upheld the sentence, concluding that a prison term of 108 months was within the range of "permissible decisions."