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Arena: 'Quite a scene' at sentencing

CNN's Kelli Arena
CNN's Kelli Arena

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Richard Reid, who tried to blast a transatlantic flight out of the air by igniting explosives in his shoes, did not go quietly Thursday as a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment. CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena was in the courtroom, and spoke to anchor Heidi Collins about what she saw.

ARENA: I can tell you that it was just quite a scene inside that courtroom -- Richard Reid battling as he was taken out of the courtroom, screaming something at the judge which, unfortunately, nobody in the courtroom could understand. But it sounded like, at the end, he said, "Thank you for nothing."

The judge [gave] a very eloquent speech at the end, saying the U.S. is not afraid of terrorists and co-conspirators. ... Reid talked about himself as a soldier. The judge said to him, "You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. And to call you a soldier would give you too much stature."

As all of this was going on, there were people who had been on that flight that Richard Reid admitted to trying to blow up, who were sitting there -- members of the crew, passengers who were on that plane. Some of those crew members gave very emotional statements to the judge.

One woman describing how she struggled with Richard Reid, trying to get the shoes away from him, trying to get the matches away from him, and how he bit her fiercely on her hand and how other passengers came to help her. All of those potential victims asking the judge for this very sentence -- life in prison -- because they said he has changed their lives forever, the lives of their children and their families forever. And that people like this should not be allowed to do what he did again.

COLLINS: I'm sure it was. Kelli, I do have one quick question for you. We know that the judge rejected sort of a last-ditch attempt by Reid's lawyers. They say they needed to get some government documents that could have helped clear him. What was that about?

ARENA: Well, there was one classified document that the defense lawyer said that they wanted -- they wanted, basically, for the judge to wait until that document was declassified. So basically they said, "Look, why don't you sentence him to the mandatory 30 years" -- there was one count that required a mandatory 30-year sentence -- "and then let's wait for that document to be declassified?"

And the judge said, "Well, no. I can't give an indeterminate sentence. I have read the classified document. You have seen the classified document. I do not believe that it has any bearing in this case. I reject that attempt, and let's go forward."

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