PHILADELPHIA – A Maryland teenager accused of helping a terror cell based in Ireland will plead guilty to a U.S. terrorism charge, according to court papers filed Monday.
Mohammad Hassan Khalid became a rare juvenile suspect held in FBI custody after his arrest last summer, when he was a 17-year-old high school student in Ellicott City, Md. Khalid had met a Pennsylvania woman who called herself Jihad Jane in an online chat room when he was 15 and had agreed to help her seek money and recruits to wage a Muslim holy war in Europe and South Asia, authorities said.
The woman, Colleen LaRose, admitted last March that she had plotted to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims. LaRose, 48, faces a sentence of life in prison. She is not just a homegrown terrorist but a rare female one.
Khalid was arrested in July. He first appeared in open court in October, after he turned 18 and was indicted on a charge of aiding terrorism. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy declined to comment on the scheduled April 2 change-of-plea hearing. He previously said that he believes LaRose helped the FBI build its case against his client.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Williams did not immediately return a message late Monday from The Associated Press.
Khalid and his family are legal immigrants from Pakistan. He could be deported if convicted.
Teachers at Mount Hebron High School said they remember Khalid, a 2011 graduate, for his strong work ethic.
Khalid had been offered a full scholarship to prestigious Johns Hopkins University. But in a secret life online, he pledged to forward money to LaRose for her to pass on to the jihadists, or holy warriors, and hid a passport she sent him, authorities said.
LaRose, of Pennsburg, was being watched by the FBI after posting online videos in which she vowed to kill or die for the jihadist cause. She moved to Ireland in late 2009 but returned voluntarily to surrender to U.S. authorities.
Khalid was indicted along with Ali Charaf Damache, an Irish citizen from Algeria who married another American woman, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, of Colorado, after she moved to Waterford, Ireland, to meet him. Paulin-Ramirez, 33, pleaded guilty last year to providing material support to terrorists, the charge now facing Khalid.
The U.S. women were sought for their Western looks and passports, authorities have said. No sentencing date has been set for either.
Damache, known as Black Flag, was charged in the Khalid indictment but has not been extradited. According to prosecutors, he sought recruits to train with the group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The group is an al-Qaida offshoot that has focused its efforts inside Algeria and has never attempted an attack on the United States.
Damache was taken into Irish custody on a threat-related charge in March 2010, when police in Waterford detained him, Paulin-Ramirez and five others as they investigated the plot against the artist. It's unclear if he's still in custody.
Damache is charged in the U.S. with conspiracy to aid terrorists and attempted identity theft to facilitate international terrorism. He does not have a lawyer listed in court records.
There is no evidence from court documents that LaRose ever made it to Sweden to kill artist Lars Vilks, although prosecutors have said she followed his activities online. His 2007 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad as a dog prompted threats on his life.
Vilks called the murder plot "rather low-tech," adding he was glad LaRose never pulled it off.