Lawyer: Plea Deal Reached In Chicago Terror Case

Published February 6, 2012 8:45PM (EST)

CHICAGO (AP) — A Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver heard on FBI wiretaps allegedly talking about bombing a stadium and sending money to al-Qaida was expected to plead guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorism.

Raja Lahrasib Khan's attorney, Thomas Durkin, said his client would change his plea at a Monday hearing, becoming the latest terrorism suspect in the Chicago area to waive his right to a trial by cutting a plea deal.

Khan, 57, was charged with two counts of attempting to provide material aid to terrorism by sending cash to Pakistan-based terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri after Kashmiri indicated he needed money to buy explosives.

In a separate case, Lebanese immigrant Sami Samir Hassoun recently agreed to plead guilty to placing a backpack he thought held a bomb near Wrigley Field, in a deal experts said may reflect his odds at a trial.

Prosecutors also sometimes prefer not going to trial, partly to avoid revelations in court that could inspire copycats or inadvertently aid would-be terrorists honing their own plots.

Durkin, Khan's attorney, declined to discuss details of the plea agreement before Monday's hearing.

A conviction on two counts of attempting to provide material support carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Plea agreements normally result in the government recommending a less severe sentence.

Khan, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, pleaded not guilty after his 2010 arrest. He has been held in a federal jail in Chicago since then.

Prosecutors' case hinges on secret recordings, including in Khan's taxicab, and of Khan and undercover agents.

A 35-page complaint affidavit alleged Khan spoke on March 11, 2010, about the possibility of planting bags of bombs around an unspecified, "big stadium," then setting them off remotely.

"Put one bag here, one there, one there ... you know, boom, boom, boom, boom," Khan allegedly said.

In another conversation, he says Americans must suffer to grasp the plight of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two-page indictment filed later in 2010 did not mention a planned attack on a stadium, and focused instead on allegations Khan sent money intended as aid for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, al-Qaida.

Khan sent $950 in 2009 to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Kashmiri; another time, he took $1,000 from an undercover agent and said it would be used to buy weapons and possibly other supplies, the complaint said.

One issue, Durkin said after Khan's arrest in 2010, was whether his client intended that the money was meant to support al-Qaida. Durkin said at the time he didn't think it was.

In Hassoun's case, he is accused of receiving a fake bomb he believed was real from undercover FBI agents in 2010, then dropping it into a trash bin on a busy street near the home of the Chicago Cubs.

He is expected to enter a guilty plea at a Feb. 14 hearing.

By Salon Staff

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