Raja Lahrasib Khan, a Chicago taxi driver, was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for providing material support to a terrorist group.
Khan, 58, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in Chicago. He pleaded guilty in February, exchanging a potential 30-year sentence if found guilty in a trial for an agreed-on punishment of five to eight years.
“He helped the wrong man and he helped him for the wrong reasons,” Zagel said before imposing the sentence, which includes supervised release for life following the prison term.
Before being sentenced, Khan asked for “mercy.”
“I am sorry. I made a bad decision and take full responsibility for that decision,” he said.
Khan was arrested in March 2010 after his son was apprehended at a London airport carrying $700 of $1,000 in marked $100 bills that a U.S. undercover agent had given the cab driver for delivery to Ilyas Kashmiri.
Kashmiri, a reputed leader the al-Qaeda terrorist network and a fighter in the movement to expel Indian forces from the Kashmir region between that nation and Pakistan, was reportedly killed last year in a U.S. missile strike.
Khan moved to the U.S. from Pakistan and is a naturalized citizen. He has a home in Kashmir, his lawyer said. At his plea hearing, he said he met Kashmiri twice in Pakistan.
The defense lawyer, Thomas A. Durkin, told reporters after the February plea that his client supported Kashmir’s independence and that the money his client sent was intended to support that movement, not al-Qaeda.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Veatch today asked Zagel to impose the full eight-year sentence, calling that punishment “reasonable and appropriate.”
“There is no de minimis amount that you can provide to a terrorist organization,” Veatch said, adding groups rely upon such donations to fund their causes. “Any amount can cause great harm.”
Durkin asked the court to impose a lesser term, arguing his client has already spent time in solitary confinement during which a mild case of diabetes became severe and he developed rheumatoid arthritis.
Zagel rejected that request, telling Kahn and his lawyer that the health problems may have been worsened by the stress of a guilty conscience and impending punishment.
While acknowledging his receipt of letters from Khan’s friends and family attesting to his innate altruism, Zagel said those charitable impulses had a downside too.
“Instinctive altruism leads to some very bad consequences,” the judge said, analogizing Khan’s case to that of a person who unknowingly gives money to a man who proves to be the 19th century London serial killer Jack the Ripper.
“It’s a different picture if he does have some idea who Jack the Ripper is,” said Zagel. Khan knew who Kashmiri was and knew of his plans, the judge said. “He knew where this money was going.”
The case is U.S. v. Khan, 10-cr-00240, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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