A federal judge in Chicago on Thursday imposed a 35-year prison sentence on David Coleman Headley for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans, and for a foiled plot in Denmark.

Headley, a 52-year-old businessman and former U.S. drug informant, avoided the death penalty by confessing that he did surveillance for both plots and by cooperating extensively with investigators after his arrest in October 2009.

Headley revealed startling evidence that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), played a central role with the Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group in the attacks. His testimony enabled U.S. prosecutors to indict Lashkar masterminds and a major in the ISI, Pakistan’s spy agency, on charges that include aiding the murder U.S. citizens in India.

As a result of Headley’s cooperation, former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago — who is now in private practice — took the unusual step Thursday of appearing in the courtroom to ask the judge for a sentence of 30 to 35 years rather than life under a plea arrangement.

Fitzgerald, a veteran counterterror prosecutor, interviewed Headley in person after his arrest and negotiated the plea bargain. Fitzgerald praised the speed and thoroughness of Headley’s cooperation, noting that Headley kept talking even after being told he faced the death penalty.

Nonetheless, U.S. District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber made his distaste for Headley clear. In addition to citing the horrific nature of the three-day slaughter in Mumbai, the judge pointed out that Headley previously received two generous plea bargains when he was charged with heroin trafficking in the 1980 and 1990s.

He said Headley had been spared the death penalty by the plea deal and from extradition to Denmark and India, where the lone survivor of the 10-man Mumbai attack squad was hanged last year.

“I don’t have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he’s a changed person committed to the American way of life,” Leinenweber said. “I hope the sentence I impose will keep him under lock and key for the rest of his natural life.”

To read the entire article, please visit: www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/afghanistan-pakistan/david-headley/judge-gives-american-35-years-for-plotting-mumbai-attacks/

January 24, 2013

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