David Coleman Headley, the U.S. citizen who acted as an advance scout for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people including six Americans, is set today to learn whether he will spend decades in prison.
Headley, who is set to be sentenced today in federal court in Chicago, pleaded guilty to 12 criminal counts arising from his efforts in support of that three-day assault and a never-executed plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed inflammatory cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005.
Pakistani-born Canadian Tahawwur Rana, who was convicted of helping Headley with the newspaper plot and of providing material support to a terrorist group, received a 14-year sentence last week from U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Chicago.
“Determining an appropriate sentence for David Headley requires consideration of uniquely aggravating and uniquely mitigating factors,” prosecutors told Leinenweber in a Jan. 22 sentencing memorandum.
The government is seeking a prison term of 30 to 35 years for Headley, 52, whose 2010 guilty plea averted a possible death sentence. He testified against Rana, also 52, whom he called his “best friend in the world,” at a 2011 trial.
Headley’s defense team filed its sentencing memorandum under seal. John Theis, one of his attorneys, declined to comment on it.
Headley admitted to six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. nationals and one charge of providing material support to the Lashkar e Tayyiba, the same Kashmiri separatist group aided by Rana.
He was born as Daood Gilani, the son of an American woman and a Pakistani man. He changed his name to portray himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani, according to his plea agreement.
Using his new identity and cover provided by Rana’s immigration services business, which had offices in Chicago, New York and Toronto, Headley said he traveled to Copenhagen and to India to do reconnaissance for the terror plots.
On Nov. 26, 2008, a squad of 10 attackers assaulted two Mumbai hotels, a café, a train station and a Jewish hostel. Nine of the assailants were killed. Headley said he had helped identify targets and a water-landing site for the attackers.
While Rana was accused of helping Headley travel to India, where he opened an office for Rana’s business, jurors rejected prosecutors’ claims that Rana knowingly supported his efforts there.
Headley testified he had known Rana since they attended a Pakistani military academy as teenagers. Both men primarily lived in Chicago, prosecutors said when announcing their arrest in October 2009.
He also said that he had carried out assignments for an agent of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency identified only as “Major Iqbal” and another man, al-Qaeda ally Ilyas Kashmiri, who was reported killed in a U.S. missile attack on June 3, 2011, a week before Rana’s conviction by a jury in federal court in Chicago.
Headley was arrested by federal agents at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport while en route to Philadelphia and intending to travel to Pakistan.
The case is U.S. v. Kashmiri, 09-cr-00830, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).