The arrest of the so-called underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had just taken place and a major story of an aborted terror attack on a Detroit-bound airline was riveting readers in the U.S. and around the world. Western media was caught off guard - how would they find a picture of one Nigerian in a country of 158 million and counting?
While they were still scouring phone books and tabbing through Google, SaharaReporters was enlisting its citizen journalists and in short order two pictures were produced. By building a network of citizen believers in information and the power of the press, SaharaReporters had Umar Farouk photo and story too.
The published picture reddened a few faces at the empty-handed CNNs and BBCs around the world. They challenged SR over the identity of the young man in the picture but an AP reporter who was present at his arraignment confirmed it was indeed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
Other details were subsequently lifted from the SaharaReporters major scoop – namely that Umar’s father was a banker of considerable wealth and would come to play an active role in securing a new plea for his son.
Umar will appear in court tomorrow to challenge his mandatory life in prison sentence, arguing in court documents filed Monday that a life sentence is "cruel and unusual punishment" and unconstitutional.
He faces a mandatory life in prison sentence since pleading guilty in October to trying to blow up an airliner carrying nearly 300 people with a bomb hidden in his underwear. He pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit terrorism.
"Given the circumstances and what did not occur in the instant matter it is fair to say that the mandatory minimum sentence of life is excessive and grossly disproportionate to the conduct," Abdulmutallab wrote in court documents Monday. "Aside from the defendant, no passengers suffered any serious injuries and there were no casualties."
The government however strongly disagrees, and is seeking the maximum punishment.
"Defendant is an unrepentant, would-be mass murderer, who views his crimes as divinely inspired and blessed, and who views himself as under a continuing obligation to carry out such crimes," prosecutors wrote Friday in a sentencing memo. "He attempted to murder 289 individuals, no sentence other than life. … Could possibly reflect the seriousness of defendant's conduct."
In pushing for a stiff sentence, the government also disclosed Friday details about Abdulmutallab's relationship with a well-known al-Qaida figure.