Story by 89 WLS reporter Bill Cameron
Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald showed up in the packed courtroom to recommend 35 years instead of life in prison because he said Headley immediately co-operated with prosecutors after he was arrested.
But Mumbai victim Linda Ragsdale of Nashville told the judge 35 years was not enough after she had to lie in a pool of her own blood and watch terrorists kill others. After court, acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro was sympathetic but said this, "We need witnesses and the only way you get witnesses in this world is by threatening to prosecute them and then offering them some real incentive to provide you with that information."
Judge Harry Leinenweber said Headley is a terrorist and deserves life in prison, but in the interest of giving other terrorists the incentive to co-operate, he agreed to the 35 year sentence.
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An American who helped plot "India's 9/11" has been sentenced to 35 years in prison, the Sun-Times is reporting.
Islamic extremist David Headley, 52, was handed the sentence in a Chicago courtroom Thursday morning for his role in the 2008 terrorist attacks that killed at least 164 people in Mumbai.
Federal court Judge Harry Leinenweber described the charismatic Headley's crimes as "horrific," delivering a sentence that means Headley may well die behind bars.
Headley — whose Northwest Side pal and co-defendant Tawahhur Rana was sentenced to 14 years by Leinenweber last week — previously pleaded guilty and co-operated with U.S. authorities in a deal that let him avoid the death penalty and extradition to India. The judge said Headley deserved life but that he had to take into account his cooperation.
He admitted acting as a scout while posing as the emissary of Rana's Chicago-based travel business ahead of the three-day attack on multiple targets in Mumbai, and of participating in a later, failed plot to attack the offices of a Danish newspaper which published controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
His convictions meant he faced up to life in prison. But prosecutors argued that though Headley shares responsibility for a "horrific terrorist attack" that resulted in the deaths of six Americans, he deserves credit for providing U.S. and Indian authorities with significant insight into Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani group that carried out the Mumbai atrocity.
In a court filing, they urged Leinenweber to sentence Headley to 30 to 35 years, noting that Headley cooperated almost immediately following his 2009 arrest at O'Hare Airport.
Though specifics of Headley's help to U.S. and Indian investigators were detailed only in a sealed court filing, publically available court papers state that he gave valuable information on Lakshar's leadership, its planned future terror targets and top-ranking al Qaeda terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri, prior to Kashmiri's 2011 death in a drone strike.
Headley was also the star witness against his lifelong friend Rana at a 2011 trial. The pair grew up together in Pakistan and remained close, even after Rana moved to Canada and later Chicago, evidence showed.
But it was Headley's sensational testimony implicating Pakistani security forces in the Mumbai attack that attracted worldwide headlines.
In sentencing Headley, Leinenweber had to balance those factors against the shocking violence of the Mumbai attack, which was intended to influence Indian policy over the disputed region of Kashmir.
The full horror of the attacks was laid bare in the words of Andreina Varagona, who survived the assault on the Oberoi Hotel that claimed the lives of Virginia resident Alan Scherr, his 13-year-old daughter Naomi and others.
"Two gunmen came running into the packed restaurant, bullets flying," Varagona recalled in a heartrending account reproduced in a court filing.
Varagona said that she urged Naomi to duck under a table and play dead but "she was so scared – she just kept screaming and screaming."
"As I reached up to grab Alan's neck, I suddenly felt the warm spray of blood on my face and in my hair," Varagona wrote. "Naomi's screams had stopped too and I saw her lying lifeless besides him."
Several other victims wrote to the court ahead of Thursday's sentencing. They and many more will "have to live with the horror of what they experienced in Mumbai," prosecutors said.
© Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC
By MICHAEL TARM
CHICAGO (AP) - A federal judge in Chicago has imposed a 35-year prison sentence for an American who played a key role in a 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, that killed more than 160 people.
David Coleman Headley conducted meticulous scouting missions before 10 gunmen carried out the devastating assault often called India's 9/11.
The 52-year-old was sentenced Thursday on 12 counts. That included conspiracy to aid the Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which mounted the attacks on the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets.
The maximum sentence was life in prison. Headley pleaded guilty and cooperated to avoid the death penalty and extradition to India.
Headley was born Daood Gilani to a Pakistani father and American mother. He changed his name in 2006 to travel more easily to and from India.
CHICAGO (AP) - An American woman who was injured during the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, India, says the brutal violence still haunts her.
Linda Ragsdale gave emotional testimony Thursday in Chicago's federal court during the sentencing of David Headley, who faces up to life in prison.
Ragsdale is a Tennessee children's author who was shot at a hotel in Mumbai.
She lost two friends in the attacks and described her fear and horror she watched the gunman and how she felt a bullet move through her body and her pants soaked with blood.
Roughly 160 people were killed in the three-day rampage in which 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group fanned out across Mumbai. They attacked a crowded train station, the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets.
CHICAGO (AP) - Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is among those speaking during the sentencing of an American man who admitted to having a role in the deadly 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.
Fitzgerald led Chicago's U.S. Attorney's office at the time that David Headley was arrested in 2009. Headley then became the government's star witness at the 2011 trial of a Chicago businessman convicted for his role in a failed plot on a Danish newspaper.
Headley faces up to life in prison, but federal prosecutors have asked for a more lenient 30 to 35 years because he cooperated.
Fitzgerald says Headley was ready to help federal prosecutors within about half an hour of his arrest and pointed out the unusual nature of his cooperation.
Fitzgerald is now in private practice.
CHICAGO (AP) - Security is tight at the federal court sentencing for an American man who helped plan the deadly 2008 attack on Mumbai, India.
Authorities walked dogs through the line of people waiting to get into the Chicago courtroom where 52-year-old David Coleman Headley was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.
Headley faces a maximum life prison term for his role in a three-day rampage in which 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group fanned out across Mumbai, attacking a crowded train station, the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets. About 160 people were killed, including children.
Headley was arrested in 2009. He was the federal government's star witness at the 2011 trial of a Chicago businessman who was convicted for his role in the failed plot to attack a Danish newspaper.
By MICHAEL TARM
CHICAGO (AP) - A small-time American drug dealer-turned-terrorist plotter who helped plan a brutal 2008 attack on Mumbai, India, will learn whether his wide-ranging cooperation with U.S. investigators will earn him any leniency in sentencing.
Fifty-two-year-old David Coleman Headley faces a maximum life prison term when U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentences him Thursday for his role in a three-day rampage in which 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group fanned out across Mumbai, attacking a crowded train station, the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets. Around 160 people were killed, including children.
Prosecutors are asking for a relatively lenient term of 30 to 35 years, which leaves open the possibility Headley one day could go free. Headley seemed to leap at the chance to spill secrets following his 2009 arrest.
Copyright © 2013 Associated Press