Chicago cab driver gets 7 1/2 years in terrorism case
A Pakistani-born taxi driver was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison today in Chicago for trying to send money to a terrorist with alleged links to al-Qaeda.
Before his punishment was handed down, Raja Lahrasib Khan asked the judge for mercy.
"I made a bad decision. I did something for which I am ashamed," Khan told the federal courtroom. His wife bowing her head, wept as he spoke.
Khan, 58, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism. His plea agreement with prosecutors recommended a five-to eight-year sentence well short of the 15-year maximum.
Authorities arrested Khan in 2010 and accused him of taking steps to send cash to Pakistan-based terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri after Kashmiri said he needed money for explosives. Khan believed Kashmiri was getting orders from Osama bin Laden, prosecutors said.
Khan, who became a US citizen in 1988, sent USD 950 in 2009 to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Kashmiri; he also took USD 1,000 from an undercover agent and said it would be used to buy weapons and possibly other supplies, prosecutors alleged.
The case hinged on secret recordings, including some made in Khan's taxicab. He was never charged with a terrorist attempt, but the original complaint said he talked about planting bags of bombs in an unspecified stadium.
"Put one bag here, one there, one there ... you know, boom, boom, boom, boom," a man, purported to be Khan, says in one wiretap, according to the complaint affidavit filed after his arrest two years ago. Khan has been held in a federal jail since his arrest.
Asked earlier this year why Khan agreed to plead guilty, his attorney, Thomas Durkin, said finding jurors who could give his client a fair trial would have been difficult.
"The word 'al-Qaeda' scares the bejesus out of people, and that's all (jurors) have to hear," Durkin said.