Tears trickled inside of a Philadelphia courtroom on Wednesday as 20-year-old Mohammed Hassan Khalid was sentenced for his role in a failed terrorist plot to murder a Swedish cartoonist.
Khalid choked up while asking for leniency from U.S. District Chief Judge Petrese Tucker and forgiveness from his weeping family seated behind him.
“I’m pleading [with] you to allow me to go home,” a rail-thin Khalid implored Tucker.
Jeffrey Lindy, Khalid’s lawyer, had requested a time-served sentence in connection to the conspiracy charge facing his client.
Tucker instead sentenced Khalid to five years in prison, including time served.
Khalid has now been behind bars for about three years.
The Pakistani native first connected with Coleen LaRose – better known as “Jihad Jane” – over the Internet when he was just 15 years old and living in Maryland.
LaRose was part of an international plot to kill Lars Vilks, whose 2007 depiction of the prophet Muhammad as a dog angered many Muslims in Sweden and beyond.
In 2012, Khalid pleaded guilty to helping LaRose recruit and organize members of an Irish terrorist cell. He sent out a questionnaire and translated jihadist texts into English for recruiting purposes.
Khalid also sent LaRose a package with money and fake identification papers after she arrived in Ireland.
LaRose was sentenced to 10 years in prison in January.
“He was affiliated with truly dangerous people,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams, who prosecuted the case. She said she was pleased with Wednesday’s ruling.
Lindy, for his part, said prosecutors had inflated Khalid’s ties to the terror plot.
“Mohammed was a teenage boy who was very bright and who had Asperger’s and he’s on the Internet talking to faceless people about outrageous stuff,” said Lindy. “What he actually did was that he translated stuff that was coming from various al-Qaida sources. He didn’t get this stuff miraculously. Anybody can get it. It’s on the Internet.”
In court, prosecutors strongly disagreed, saying that Khalid played a critical role in the plot and refused to stop participating even after FBI agents warned him of the consequences.
Before teaming up with LaRose, Khalid had received a full-scholarship to the elite Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
He’ll now serve two more years in prison and may be deported to Pakistan after he’s released.
Tucker said Khalid’s age, Asperger’s diagnosis and his extensive cooperation with national security investigations were considered before she sentenced him.
Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, who was also involved in the plot against Vilks, is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
Ali Charaf Damache, the man prosecutors say “choreographed” the murder plot and directed LaRose and Khalid – is still oversees in Ireland. The U.S. Attorney’s office is currently trying to extradite him.