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Long term sought in ship assault

Prosecutors, citing lasting injuries to the victim, are seeking more than guidelines suggest.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A cruise ship worker who sexually assaulted and tried to kill a sleeping passenger after hiding in her stateroom may face a tougher punishment because his crimes were so extreme and had a devastating effect on the victim.

The Feb. 14 attack aboard Holland America's MS Nieuw Amsterdam days after it left Florida's Port Everglades has left the woman so psychologically traumatized and severely injured that her attacker deserves a long prison term, federal prosecutors say.

Ketut Pujayasa, 29, confessed soon after the attack and pleaded guilty to attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault. The maximum penalty is life in federal prison but sentencing guidelines - specific to his circumstances - suggest a sentence of 14 to 17.5 years, court records show.

In a memo detailing the lasting effect on the victim, Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Koontz suggested a more appropriate punishment would be 24 to 30.5 years when Pujayasa is sentenced Jan. 7.

The Indonesian citizen, who was fired from his job as a room service attendant for Holland America Lines, told FBI agents he tried to kill the 31-year-old woman. He said he tried to snap her neck. He also choked her until she passed out and tried to rape her, he said.

He said he was exacting revenge because he believed the woman had insulted his parents Feb. 13 when he went to deliver her breakfast.

Pujayasa should face a longer period of incarceration to protect the innocent and avoid any repeat of the devastation he inflicted, prosecutors recommended to U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez, who will make the sentencing decision.