Pirates and the Rule of Law: Mandatory Life Sentences

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a piracy-related opinion on August 13, 2015. The decision in United States v. Mohamed Ali Said, et al., (Record Nos. 14-4420, 4421, 4423, 4424, and 4429), and designated for publication, approved the single-sanction for piracy under 18 U.S.C. § 1651, specifically, a mandatory life sentence. In April 2010, the several defendants, all Somalis, boarded a small skiff and entered the Gulf of Aden, for the intended purpose of “seizing a [merchant] ship” so as to “make money.” The group took with them a hooked boarding ladder, and a cache of weapons and ammunition, including AK-47 rifles, and an “RPG,” which acronym denotes a rocket

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