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Chicago cabbie who admitted trying to send al-Qaida money sentenced to 7 years in prison
CHICAGO (AP) ' A Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver was sentenced to 7 years in prison Friday for attempting to send money to a terrorist with alleged links to al-Qaida.
Before his punishment was handed down, Raja Lahrasib Khan asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel for mercy.
"I made a bad decision. I did something for which I am ashamed," the bald, bearded Khan told the federal courtroom in Chicago, his wife bowing her head and weeping as he spoke.
Khan, 58, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorism. His plea agreement with prosecutors recommended a five- to eight-year sentence ' well short of the 15-year maximum.
The case hinged on secret recordings, including some made in Khan's taxicab. He was never charged with a terrorist attempt, but the original complaint said he talked about planting bags of bombs in an unspecified stadium.
"Put one bag here, one there, one there ... you know, boom, boom, boom, boom," a man, purported to be Khan, says in one wiretap, according to the 35-page complaint affidavit filed after his arrest two years ago.
Authorities arrested Khan in 2010 and accused him of taking steps to send cash to Pakistan-based terrorist leader Ilyas Kashmiri after Kashmiri said he needed money for explosives. Khan believed Kashmiri was getting orders from Osama bin Laden, prosecutors said.
Khan has been held in a federal jail in Chicago since his arrest.
Khan, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1988, sent $950 in 2009 to an individual in Pakistan for delivery to Kashmiri; he also took $1,000 from an undercover agent and said it would be used to buy weapons and possibly other supplies, prosecutors alleged.
Asked earlier this year why Khan agreed to plead guilty, his attorney, Thomas Durkin, said finding jurors who could give his client a fair trial would have been difficult.
"The word 'al-Qaida' scares the bejesus out of people and that's all (jurors) have to hear," Durkin said.