Chicago cab driver gets 7 1/2 years in prison for attempting to send money to terrorist

A Pakistani-born Chicago taxi driver was sentenced Friday to 7 1/2 years in prison followed by lifetime supervision for attempting to send money to a terrorist with alleged links to Al Qaeda.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, a naturalized U.S. citizen since 1988, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization after his arrest in March 2010.

Before his punishment was handed down, Khan asked U.S. District Judge James Zagel for mercy.

"I made a bad decision. I did something for which I am ashamed," a bald, bearded Khan told the federal courtroom in Chicago. Khan, 58, wore an orange jumpsuit, his face drawn and visibly distressed. Khan's wife, accompanied by their son and daughter, bowed her head and wept as he spoke.

Khan's plea agreement with prosecutors recommended a five- to eight-year sentence -- well short of the 15-year maximum.

His attorney, Thomas Durkin, told Zagel that Khan has suffered depression and even considered suicide. He also noted that his client had cooperated with authorities.

"He has done everything he can to make up for this ridiculous mistake in judgment," Durkin said.

But the judge pointed out that when he became a U.S. citizen, Khan swore an oath to God to protect the country, calling the violation of that oath "a profoundly aggravating factor."

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 Usama bin Laden, prosecutors said.

Khan has been held in a federal jail in Chicago since his arrest.

Khan 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, Durkin said finding jurors who could give his client a fair trial would have been difficult.

"The word `Al Qaeda' scares the bejesus out of people and that's all (jurors) have to hear," the attorney said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.