A Maryland teenager who pleaded guilty to conspiring with Islamic terrorists through “Jihad Jane” was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday.
Mohammad Hassan Khalid, a 20-year-old Pakistani citizen living legally in Ellicott City, was at 17 the youngest person to be accused in U.S. court of providing material support to terrorists, prosecutors said.
Khalid was considered to be a model student and was destined for Johns Hopkins University. But early in high school, he began interacting online with both Colleen LaRose, who went by the name Jihad Jane, and Jamie Paulin-Ramirez. Working mostly online, they sought to raise funds and recruit supporters for operations in Europe.
Khalid’s help included translating propaganda, including an Osama bin Laden speech, and hiding a stolen passport. In a court filing, the government called him a "tireless soldier for violent jihad."
Federal authorities said the group built a cell of "men and women from Europe and the United States divided into a planning team, a research team, an action team, a recruitment team and a finance team; some of whom would travel to South Asia for explosives training and return to Europe to wage violent jihad.”
Khalid had faced up to 15 years in prison, but prosecutors offered him a sentence of 10 years or shorter in exchange for his cooperation.
Khalid's lawyer, Jeffrey Lindy, told the Los Angeles Times that although the sentence was reasonable, the case was hardly "the stuff of international terrorism." He had sought an immediate release for Khalid, noting that he has already spent nearly three years in prison during the court proceedings.
U.S. District Court Judge Petrese B. Tucker also ordered Khalid to serve three years on probation when he is released in two years, having received credit for time served. During probation he will have limited access to computers.
But it’s likely that Khalid will be deported, his attorney said. His parents, brother and two sisters are now naturalized U.S. citizens, Lindy said.
"Not only has he forever forfeited the American dream – that of an immigrant being accepted to and receiving a degree from one of the premier universities in this nation – but, even more seriously, he now faces deportation to an unstable Islamic nation where he retains little in the way of family ties and where he may face lethal retribution for his cooperation in this case," Lindy wrote in a court filing.
Lindy argued that Khalid was an immature teenager unknowingly struggling with Asperger's syndrome at the time. Since then, the self-described "nerd" has understood the gravity of his offense and just wants to get his life back on track.
LaRose was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Paulin-Ramirez to eight years. An Algerian man alleged to be involved in the scheme, Ali Charaf Damache, is being held in Ireland, pending extradition to the U.S., prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors described LaRose has a “lonely and isolated” woman -- from an abusive and neglectful family -- who turned to the Internet to bring excitement to her life. She wound up in extremist circles. Most famously, she plotted to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a dog.
Though she cooperated with authorities, she seemed to relish what she had done, they said. Investigators indicated Khalid took pride in his "glory days," but was remorseful.
"However, Khalid’s sincere efforts at cooperation do not erase the harm that he caused," prosecutors said in December court filing. "Khalid’s English translations remain online and available for others to read, and the stolen passport he protected has yet to be recovered."
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