Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana gets 14 years in Danish terror plot

January 17, 2013 4:16:56 PM PST
Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in federal prison for supporting overseas terrorists.

Prosecutors said Rana worked with the terror group behind the Mumbai massacre.

In this ITeam Report: Why the sentence doesn't satisfy the defense or the prosecution.

This is one of those federal investigations that just mushroomed from how it appeared at the start. When the ITeam first reported on the arrests of Rana and his accomplice David Coleman Headley, in October 2-09, it seemed as though federal authorities had interrupted two fringe terrorist fundraisers, loosely connected to Pakistani extremists.

Now, more than three years later, Rana is looking at a prison term that is either too long or not long enough.

When Rana was arrested and first questioned by the FBI in Chicago, he claimed to be just a Chicago businessman-owner of a North Side travel and immigration service, and a goat farm in downstate Illinois.

After federal agents raided the downstate slaughterhouse, questioned employees and processed evidence, they determined that Rana and his friend Headley were in the middle of a much more extensive plot with Pakistani extremists.

By the time the investigation was finished, a total of seven people were charged in the U.S. and overseas, accused of planning and executing the 2008 siege on Mumbai, India, a massacre that left more than 165 people dead.

Rana and Headley were charged with a plot against a Danish newspaper that had published cartoons critical of the prophet Mohammed.

Even though Headley ended up flipping and becoming a witness for the prosecution, and despite undercover tapes and paper trails, a jury convicted Rana only in the Danish plot.

Rana's family attended Thursday's sentencing hearing at the Dirksen Building, where attorneys for the Pakistani-turned-Canadian citizen continued to downplay his role in the terror schemes, and said Rana had been duped by Headley. They asked for a reduced sentence of nine years. The government wanted an enhanced sentence of 30 years, connecting Rana to the Mumbai plotters.

Judge Harry Leinenweber called it a "dastardly" plot, then handed down a sentence of 14 years.

"The judge agreed that there was very much of Rana that was good, but he could not ignore the magnitude of the very bad, and when he put that together he came up with the high end of the guidelines," said defense attorney Charles Swift.

"We will appeal the conviction certainly, and we will discuss with Mr. Rana whether to appeal the sentencing," said defense attorney Patrick Blegen.

Both sides could appeal the sentence.