High-profile terror cases headed for plea deals

December 12, 2011 5:15:15 PM PST
Two high-profile terrorism cases in Chicago are headed toward plea bargains, according to court records obtained by the I-Team and attorneys for the accused.

The terrorism cases are unrelated and both men were arrested by the FBI at different times last year. Raja Khan was a cab driver the feds say was connected to top foreign terrorists. Sami Hassoun was the so-called "Wrigleyville bomber."

Now with Khan and Hassoun cutting deals, the men and the government will avoid lengthy and costly prosecutions.

The Dave Matthews band was playing in Wrigley Field on September 19th, 2010. That is the night federal authorities claim Sami Samir Hassoun chose to detonate a bomb in Wrigleyville.

The 22-year old Lebanese national was charged with placing a backpack inside a trash can outside Sluggers sports bar across from the ballpark.

According to prosecutors, Hassoun thought it was a fully functional bomb in his pack, capable of leveling the city block.

"His intent was to kill as many people as he could in an area of town that was highly populated at that time of night, to create as much destruction as possible," said the FBI's agent in charge, Robert Grant.

Instead of setting off a blast, Hassoun was arrested in a sting operation by FBI counterterrorism agents, who say they videotaped construction of the bomb by Hassoun and an undercover agent.

Monday night, newly-filed court records state that "plea negotiations" have been underway between Hassoun and the government and "the parties now believe that this matter will be resolved without a trial."

Also Monday night, attorneys for Pakistani-Canadian cab driver Raja Lahrasib Khan have had similar plea bargain talks with the government.

Khan has been locked up since March 2010, when he was arrested in Chicago driving his taxi in the Loop. Federal agents say Khan was in cahoots with Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of a Pakistani terror organization connected to Al Qaeda.

According to the charges, Khan is heard on tape describing that bags containing remote controlled bombs could be placed in several different locations and then: "Boom, boom, boom, boom."

Monday night, Khan's attorney, Thomas Durkin, says prosecutors are going to propose a written plea agreement that, if acceptable, will avoid a trial.

A hearing is scheduled in that case for next week. A large majority of federal prosecutions end up in plea bargains. Only five percent of criminal cases actually go to trial. For defendants pleading guilty, it usually results in less punishment; for the taxpayers, there are savings in justice department resources, public defender expenses, and court costs.


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