CHICAGO (AP) — One Tahawwur Rana is a loving, kindhearted father hoodwinked into committing crimes out of loyalty to an old friend. The other Tahawwur Rana is hate-filled and cold, speaking approvingly of mass murder and laughing at the prospect of severed heads thrown onto a street.
Those competing portraits are expected to be on display Thursday before a judge sentences the Chicago businessman for backing a terrorist plot in Denmark and supporting the group behind the three-day deadly siege of Mumbai sometimes known as India’s 9/11.
Rana, 52, was convicted in 2011 for providing support to a Pakistani group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 160 people, as well as for his backing of an unrealized plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Defense attorneys say they are seeking a no more than nine-year prison term at his sentencing hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Prosecutors are asking for the maximum 30 years, which, at his age, could amount to a life term.
Although Rana was acquitted of terrorism charges, the question of whether he should be considered a terrorist for sentencing purposes likely will be a focus of the hearing. Federal guidelines require stiffer sentences for those deemed to have engaged in terrorism.
Prosecutors argued in pretrial filings this week that the Pakistani-born Canadian fits the definition of a terrorist.
He laughed in secretly recorded conversations about beheading some of the Danish newspaper’s employees and throwing their heads onto a street, prosecutors alleged. They also say Rana responded to the massacres in Mumbai by saying the victims “deserved it.”
Jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in the three-day rampage in Mumbai, India’s largest city.
Acquittal on that charge, prosecutors argue, doesn’t lessen the reality that Rana was bent on committing terrorism.
“The goal,” one of its filings said about the Danish plot, “was murder on a grand, horrific scale.”
The core of the defense argument is that Rana acquiesced to provide help to a key figure in the Mumbai attack, David Coleman Headley, out of a misguided sense of loyalty going back to their days as childhood friends.
Headley, an American Pakistani who has pleaded guilty to laying the groundwork for those attacks, was the star witness at Rana’s trial. He testified to avoid the death penalty and extradition. He will be sentenced next week in the same Chicago courtroom.
Rana was accused of allowing Headley to open a branch of his Chicago-based immigration law business in Mumbai as a cover story and to travel as a representative of the company in Denmark. In court, a travel agent showed how Rana booked travel for Headley.
“The two continued their friendship throughout their lives,” the defense filing says. “But while Headley lived a life of crime and excess, Rana lived a full and productive life … starting several businesses, getting married and raising three children. … This continued friendship and loyalty to Headley ultimately led to Rana’s downfall.”
The defense filing described his crimes as an aberration.
“Rana is a kind, hardworking, dedicated, charitable, compassionate family man,” it says. “He made the unfortunate mistake of becoming involved in the activities of his oldest — and most manipulative — friend.”
It added: “Rana is quite simply not a terrorist.”
Prosecutors blasted the notion that Rana displayed any naivety, highlighting how in some of his communications he took pains to use coded language. Rana, the government filing said, had “engaged in extensive terrorist tradecraft.”
Far from being hoodwinked by Headley, Rana “made his own decision to participate … and, once he did, did so whole-heartedly.”
Prosecutors also sought to discredit letters Rana’s family, including his wife, sent recently to the judge describing Rana as a loving father and appealing for leniency.
Rana’s wife, prosecutors argued, held a different opinion of her husband until right before his arrest. They cite a secretly recorded conversation in which she calls Headley “absolutely crazy” and quickly adds Rana is much like him.
“They talk nonsense all day, idiots. That’s not how Islam spreads! … Such as, ‘Kill him, he is not practicing like us — kill him, do that to him, do this to him, he is like this,’” she allegedly says. “Is this how Islam spreads? … Hatred spreads like this, not Islam.”
Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm
More Related Stories
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Rescue crews race to find tornado survivors
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11