Prosecutors say sentence sends a message to anyone attempting to help a terrorist organization. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
A Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver who pleaded guilty to attempting to send money to a terrorist with alleged ties to Al Qaeda was sentenced Friday to more than seven years in prison.
Raja Lahrasib Khan, 58, of the city’s Uptown neighborhood, displayed "toxic altruism" U.S. District Judge James Zagel said in imposing the 90-month sentence, followed by lifetime supervised release.
In addition, Zagel said it was a "profoundly aggravating factor" that Khan’s crime occurred after he voluntarily chose to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.
"I made a bad decision. I did something for which I am ashamed,'' a bald, bearded Khan said in federal court. Khan wore an orange jumpsuit, his face drawn and visibly distressed.
Khan's wife, accompanied by their son and daughter, bowed her head and wept as he spoke.
His attorney, Thomas Durkin, told Zagel that Khan has suffered depression and even considered suicide. He also noted that his client had cooperated with authorities.
"He has done everything he can to make up for this ridiculous mistake in judgment," Durkin said.
Khan was charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorism by sending cash to Pakistan-based Ilyas Kashmiri, an alleged terrorism leader.
According to a 35-page complaint affidavit, by at least 2008, Khan, who claimed to have known Kashmiri for 15 years, learned that Kashmiri was working with Al Qaeda, and was purportedly receiving orders from Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden.
Khan sent $950 in 2009 to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Kashmiri; he also took $1,000 from an undercover agent and said it would be used to buy weapons and possibly other supplies.
The prosecutors' case hinged on secret recordings of Khan and undercover agents, some taking place 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.
The plea agreement recommended a sentence of between five and eight years, well short of the maximum 15 years.
Khan has been held in a federal jail in Chicago since his arrest.