Fare for taxi-driving terrorist sympathizer: 90 months

June 8, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Raja Lahrasib Khan, a 58-year old American citizen born in Pakistan, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism. His plea agreement with prosecutors recommended a five- to eight-year sentence.

The I-Team first reported in December that Khan and the government were headed toward a plea agreement. Khan's attorney Thomas Durkin, who worked out the terms of the plea agreement, said that it was too good a deal to pass up.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel sentenced Khan to the upward end of the government's recommendation, although it was far less than the maximum he could have received under the law.

Khan's attorneys had asked Zagel for a 78-month sentence, a year less than the judge issued. Judge Zagel did not seem persuaded by Khan's in-court plea for mercy. "I deeply regret the bad mistake I have made and I apologize from the bottom of my heart. I am sorry for my bad decision, and I take responsibility for my actions" he said.

Khan displayed "toxic altruism" U.S. District Judge James Zagel said in court and that it was a "profoundly aggravating factor" that Khan's crime occurred after he voluntarily chose to become a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988.

The case hinged on secret recordings, including some made in Khan's taxicab.

"Although Khan's actual donations (approximately $500 to $550) and attempted donation ($1,000) were, relatively speaking, not incredibly substantial amounts, donations need not be large to be of assistance to terrorist organizations" said a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in a statement.

He wasn't charged with a terrorist attempt but the original complaint claimed that he talked about planting bombs in an unspecified stadium. He described the blasts by saying they would go, "Boom, boom, boom, boom."

An affidavit accompanying the original criminal complaint stated that Khan planned to bags containing remote controlled bombs. According to the affidavit, Khan sent $950 on Nov. 23, 2009, to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Ilyas Kashmiri – a terrorist leader Khan claimed to have known for 15 years. The complaint said Khan believed Kashmiri was getting his orders from bin Laden, and that Khan sent the money after Kashmiri indicated he needed cash to buy explosives.

Khan accepted $1,000 from the undercover agent and assured him that the money would be used to purchase weapons and possibly other supplies, the complaint said.

The cabbie initially pleaded not guilty. His attorney Thomas Durkin said at the time: "The real issue is, was this in support of al-Qaida, and I don't think it was. I don't believe it's a crime to know Ilyas Kashmiri," Durkin said. "I don't believe it's a crime to talk to him."

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