An alleged top adviser to Osama bin Laden who attacked a downtown Manhattan prison guard in the eye with a sharpened comb in 2000 was sentenced to life in prison. Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a founding member of Al Qaeda, was arrested in connection with the bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998. Although he admitted to the stabbing in 2002, and was given a 32-year sentence, he was re-sentenced to life without parole yesterday after an appeals court ruled that the attack should be considered a terrorist act.
Louis Pepe (you can see a picture here) was an officer in a high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, when Salim with an accomplice blinded him with hot sauce, beat him up, and stabbed his left eye with the comb, which penetrated his brain. Pepe went through ten years of surgeries and therapy, "all to try to relearn a fraction of what he knew and what he was able to do before the attack,” said prosecutor Jonathan S. Kolodner. Even Salim's defense lawyer called the attack "ghastly, disgusting, despicable."
At court yesterday, Salim appeared via video, offering reparations to Pepe for the attack: "If the victim wants to take my eye, let him take my eye. Let him take my hand. Let him take my leg. Whatever he wants, let him take it from me." Pepe, who has lost his left eye and much sight in his right eye, has difficulty speaking, suffered paralysis on his right side, and requires 16 hours a day of home care and assistance with most activities, also spoke before the court: "I know where you want to go—you want to be a martyr. Guess what, Salim? You’re not going martyr. You going hell. That’s where you’re going, Salim.” Then, he made a final gesture for Salim's benefit:
“I got one more thing,” Mr. Pepe said, fumbling with a small paper bag and removing a doughnut, which dropped on the table in front of him. “This is for you, Salim,” he said.
Mr. Pepe’s sister Eileen Trotta, who accompanied him to court, said afterward that her brother had a reputation for being generous and fair to all inmates, including Mr. Salim. The doughnut was a sarcastic reminder, she added.