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American involved in Mumbai terror plot sentenced to 35 years

January 24, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • Courtroom sketch shows David Coleman Headley in federal court in Chicago.
Courtroom sketch shows David Coleman Headley in federal court in Chicago. (Tom Gianni / Associated…)

An American who played a role in the 2008 attack in Mumbai, India, and who cooperated with U.S. authorities in prosecuting other terrorists, was sentenced to 35 years in prison by a federal judge in Chicago Thursday.

David Coleman Headley, 52, born Daood Giliani, to a Pakistani father and an American mother, acknowledged scouting locations in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, in connection with the multi-day attack  by 10 Pakistani terrorists. More than 160 people were killed, including six Americans, and hundreds wounded in the rampage against such targets as the railroad station, a Jewish center and the iconic Taj Mahal hotel.

“I don't have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he's a changed person and believes in the American way of life,” said U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber in imposing the sentence. The prison sentence was within the punishment range requested by prosecutors who agreed keep the death sentence off the table in exchange for Headley’s testimony about the terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Headley was a key witness against Tahawwur Rana, a Chicago businessman convicted of providing aid to Lashkar and of backing a failed plot to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Rana was sentenced in Chicago last week to 14 years in prison.

Before the sentencing, a victim who was shot in the attack testified. Linda Ragsdale, a Tennessee children's author, spoke through tears and said she was still haunted by the incidents.

“I know what a bullet can do to every part of the human body,” she said, according to the Associated Press report from inside the Chicago courtroom. “I know the sound of life leaving a 13-year-old child. These are things I never needed to know, never needed to experience.”

The attackers, carrying guns and explosives, arrived in Mumbai by boat on Nov. 26, 2008, and terrorized the city, the commercial capital of India, until that Saturday.

The maximum sentence Headley faced was life in prison.

He agreed to cooperate and pleaded guilty in 2010 to 12 counts. In addition to avoiding the death sentence, prosecutors promised not to extradite him to India.

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