I don't have any faith in Headley when he says he is a changed person now, says judge

Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley was on Thursday sentenced to 35 years in prison by a U.S. court for masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The sentence will be followed by five years supervised release.

While the U.S. government admitted the “deplorable” nature of his role in the 26/11 attacks, the prosecution had pressed for a sentence of 30-35 years under a plea bargain with Headley in return for his cooperation. The death penalty and extradition options were dropped.

Pronouncing the sentence here, U.S. federal district court judge Harry Leinenweber said he had to consider that Headley had committed numerous crimes in the past, confessed to them and received lenient sentences.

Headley’s defence team argued for mitigation based on his past drug addiction and the need to set an appropriate sentence to encourage cooperation from future defendants in a similar position.

Under his deal with the U.S. government, Headley supplied information on other terror suspects, which, prosecutors said, helped them investigate and bring criminal charges against co-defendant Tahawwur Rana, Ilyas Kashmiri and several Pakistan-based operatives.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there is no Federal parole and defendants must serve at least 85% of their sentence.

In pronouncing the sentence, Justice Leinenweber said: “Mr. Headley is a terrorist.”

“There is little question that life imprisonment would be an appropriate punishment for Mr. Headley’s incredibly serious crimes but for the significant value provided by his immediate and extensive cooperation.”

PTI adds:

The judge said: “He commits crime, cooperates and then gets rewarded for the cooperation. No matter what I do, it is not going to deter terrorists. Unfortunately, terrorists do not care for it. I do not have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says that he is a changed person now.

“I do believe that it is my duty to protect the public from Mr. Headley and ensure that he does not get into any further terrorist activities. Recommending 35 years is not a right sentence.

“I will accept the government motion 35 years and sentence of 35 years ...”

Asked if he wanted to make a statement, Headley said: “No your honour …”

The judge said: “The sentence I impose, I’m hopeful, it will keep Mr. Headley under lock and key for the rest of his natural life.”

He said it would have been much easier to impose the death penalty. “That’s what you deserve.”

A week ago, Justice Leinenweber had sentenced Rana to 14 years of imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release for providing material support to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and planning terror attack against a Danish newspaper in Copenhagen.