That blast happened just hours after a small pipe bomb exploded along a Marine Corps road race in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, frightening participants but injuring no one.
"I'm an immigrant like you", she told him.
Rahimi was arrested in 2016 after engaging in a gunfight with police, who later found a notebook in which he praised Islamic terrorists and promised violence.
The bombings triggered a two-day manhunt that ended in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey.
"I get it", Berman told Rahimi after announcing the sentence.
A year earlier, in September 2016, Rahimi transported two improvised pressure-cooker bombs - similar to those used in the Boston marathon bombing in April 2013 - from New Jersey to NY, placing both in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, authorities said.
Rahimi's lawyer, Xavier Donaldson, argued that the court should impose a sentence of only 15 years or less on top of the mandatory 30-year and life terms.
For Berman, anything less than the statutory sentencing guidelines "would be totally inappropriate and not viable".
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Outside court, Nelson said it brought her relief to confront him. "But through life experience, I have learned to understand why there's such frustration between the Muslim community overseas and the American people". He also ordered $562,803 in restitution.
In late 2017, federal prosecutors said Rahimi provided inmates with copies of terrorist propaganda and jihadist materials, including speeches by Osama bin Laden and militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - both of whom were killed in 2011- along with bomb-making instructions, books on jihad, and issues of the al Qaeda-backed magazine Inspire, prosecutors said.
Wearing blue prison smock and white cap Tuesday, Rahimi refuted these claims, telling the court that the fellow inmate was already "radicalized by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents when he was on the outside".
Rahimi spoke to the judge, saying he didn't come from Afghanistan as a child with hate in his heart.
"Less than a year-and-a-half after his attacks, Rahimi has now been tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison", said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.
"Rahimi attempted to wreak havoc in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City".
NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill noted in a statement that Rahimi's sentencing should deter future acts of terror. "It is not." Rahimi was convicted on October 16, 2017, following a two-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman, who also imposed today's sentence.