A Chicago man accused of scouting out the Indian city of Mumbai before the 2008 terrorist attack that left 166 people dead and plotting to attack a Danish newspaper has agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, a court said Tuesday.
David Coleman Headley is scheduled for a change of plea hearing Thursday before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber, the court said in a one-paragraph filing. It gave no details about what charges Headley would plead to or whether he would cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenience at sentencing.
Headley pleaded not guilty in January to 12 counts, including six that charge a conspiracy to murder and maim people in India and provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. The maximum sentence is the death penalty.
Headley's attorney, John Theis, said he and his client "have been in discussions with the government" and Thursday's action would reflect the results. He declined to comment further.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, also declined to comment.
Headley, 49, is accused of going to Mumbai to lay groundwork for the November 2008 rampage that the government blames on the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group is antagonistic toward India because of a dispute over the territory of Kashmir.
FBI agents arrested Headley at O'Hare International Airport on Oct. 3 as he was about to board a plane for Philadelphia. The government says he was believed to be headed to Pakistan afterward to confer with collaborators.
Headley is accused of scheming to launch a terrorist attack on a Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten, which in 2005 published a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were highly offensive to Muslims. That attack never happened.
Three other men are charged along with Headley.
Chicago businessman Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 49, has pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with both the Danish cartoons case and the Mumbai attacks. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Two other men, retired Pakistani military officer Rehman Abdur Hashim Syed and accused terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri, also are charged in connection with the planned attack on the newspaper. Their whereabouts are unknown, although the indictment said Kashmiri has been in Pakistan's tribal areas, home to various terrorist groups.
Headley is the son of an American mother and Pakistani father. His name at birth was Daood Gilani, but he had it legally changed to make it easier to get through customs without questions, according to federal prosecutors.