"Everything I've seen and heard to date confirms in my mind that Mr. Ressam is now trying to do the right thing and has given rather startlingly helpful information to the government," U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said.
Sentencing had been scheduled for March 13, but Coughenour on Wednesday granted federal prosecutors' request for a postponement. He did not set a new sentencing date. A status conference was scheduled for Oct. 1.
Since Ressam's conviction nearly two years ago, the Algerian national has been cooperating with federal authorities, giving up information that has helped in several investigations.
Under federal guidelines, Ressam, 31, could get up to 130 years in prison. Prosecutors have not specified how long a sentence they will request. Defense attorneys have agreed to ask for no less than 27 years.
Fearing his cooperation will end once he's sentenced, federal prosecutors have asked that his sentencing date be postponed indefinitely.
"Frankly, the government needs the leverage, as it needs in many cases, to ensure the cooperation of the defendant," Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis J. Diskin said at the hearing.
Defense attorneys countered that Ressam has told the government everything he knows and that he has no plans to quit helping.
"He's given the government everything he knows, and yet he sees no end in sight to the continuances," said Tom Hillier, Ressam's public defender.
Coughenour has agreed to delay Ressam's sentencing several times, most recently about a year ago, when he set the March 13 date.
At Coughenour's request Wednesday, prosecutors filed a motion allowing Ressam prison term below the federal sentencing range.
Ressam was convicted in April 2001 of terrorist conspiracy and eight other charges in what investigators have said was a foiled plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 1, 2000. He was arrested in December 1999 carrying explosives hidden in the spare tire compartment of his car as he drove into Port Angeles off a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia.
Hoping to win a lighter sentence, he has offered his assistance in several terrorism investigations.
Specifically, prosecutors said, statements from Ressam prompted the government to seek the July 2001 arrest of Abu Doha, described as a London operative of Osama bin Ladin's al-Qaida terrorist network. Doha has been charged with conspiring with Ressam to blow up Los Angeles International, but also is accused of coordinating other terrorist plots around the world.
Ressam's testimony helped convict Mokhtar Haouari, 32, of supplying fake identification and cash for the millennium bomb plot. Haouari was sentenced in New York to 24 years in prison.
And in December, Ressam met with German justice officials who questioned him about al-Qaida for the trial of a 28-year-old Moroccan charged with supporting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers. The defendant, Mounir el Motassadeq, was convicted last week and sentenced to 15 years in prison, the maximum allowed under German law.
In his cooperation agreement with the government, Ressam said he would consent to any reasonable delay in his sentencing.