Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley, 52, will at most face 35 years in a U.S. prison for his role in masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks attributed to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and there is unlikely to be any prospect of his ever being extradited to India for trial, it has emerged.
Given that he admitted guilt under the protection of a plea bargain with the U.S. government in exchange for his cooperation as a key witness in the case, the Justice Department pressed a federal judge in Chicago to sentence Headley to no more than 30-35 years in prison upon his appearance in court on Thursday.
The other prime accused in the case in the U.S., Pakistani-Canadian businessman Tahawwur Rana, was sentenced to 14 years in prison last week. Headley’s sentence could be considerably lower, reports suggest.
‘A just balance’
In a 20-page position paper, Acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shaprio said a prison sentence of 30-35 years “strikes a fair and just balance between the aggravating and mitigating factors applicable to Headley.”
Headley has admitted guilt to 12 separate charges stemming from three separate episodes of criminal conduct — the Mumbai attacks, the planned attack against Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, and material involvement with the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Underscoring the importance of his cooperation, Mr. Shaprio’s report added: “While there was no question that his criminal conduct was deplorable, his decision to cooperate, and the uniquely significant value that cooperation has provided to the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, support the government’s recommendation.”
Attorneys argued that in light of Headley’s past cooperation and his anticipated future cooperation, “as well as other relevant factors,” the government agreed not to seek the death penalty against him and “not to extradite him to Pakistan, India or Denmark for the offences to which he pleaded guilty.”