Uncertainty over which charges will be taken up
David Coleman Headley, accused of doing background planning for the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, will change his plea to guilty on federal charges, a United States district court said.
Headley originally pleaded not guilty to 12 charges in connection to attacks in India; he is further charged with a plot to attack Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed. The attack, however, did not take place.
Headley was arrested by FBI agents in Chicago in October while trying to board a plane for Philadelphia
In a one-paragraph filing, the court said on Wednesday that Headley was scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing for Thursday before United States District Judge Harry Leinenweber. However, the filing offered no further clarification on which charges Headley would change his plea for.
Reports quoted John Theis, Headley's lawyer, as saying he and Headley “have been in discussions with the government,” and Thursday's action would reflect the results.
Deal for lenient sentence?
Vinay Kumar reports from New Delhi:
Fearing that a guilty plea will get him a lighter sentence, government sources feel it will only strengthen suspicion that Headley may well have been a “double agent” working for U.S. agencies as well as for Pakistani terror outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The sources said such a sentence would be a matter of concern to India. If Headley's move of plea bargain succeeded, he might escape the maximum death penalty and might be given a lesser punishment.
The sources said the deal being struck between Headley and the U.S. agencies was under proffer agreement which allowed the accused to strike a deal with the federal prosecutors — in this case the FBI — to get a lenient sentence in exchange of giving information.
In the context of criminal law, a proffer agreement is a written agreement between federal prosecutors and individuals under criminal investigation which permit these individuals to give the government information about crimes with some assurances that they will be protected against prosecution.