Young terrorist supporter, co-defendant of 'Jihad Jane,' to be sentenced

Colleen LaRose, a/k/a "Jihad Jane," got 10 years in prison.
Colleen LaRose, a/k/a "Jihad Jane," got 10 years in prison.
Posted: March 05, 2014

Update: This sentencing hearing has been rescheduled to April 17. It was originally reported as tomorrow.

AT 17, Mohammad Hassan Khalid was the youngest person ever charged in the United States with providing material support to terrorists.

Khalid, a co-defendant of Montgomery County's "Jihad Jane," pleaded guilty to the charge in April 2012.

April 17, Khalid, now 20, a former high-school honor student who had received a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, will be sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia.

A Pakistani citizen and legal permanent resident in the U.S., Khalid was living in Ellicott City, Md., with his parents and three siblings when he was arrested July 6, 2011, a couple of months before his 18th birthday and just after his high-school graduation.

The maximum sentence Khalid faces is 15 years behind bars. Prosecutors will ask U.S. District Chief Judge Petrese Tucker for "a significant period of incarceration" but less than 10 years in prison, according to their sentencing memorandum.

Khalid has provided substantial cooperation to the feds since his arrest, the government wrote. "He met approximately 20 times with government agents from this district and elsewhere. He has talked about his activities for dozens of hours, reviewed scores of written documents. . . . There can be no doubt that Khalid's assistance advanced multiple national security investigations in important ways."

Yet, Khalid's "status as a young U.S. terrorist recruit has captured the world's attention, and this sentencing presents an important opportunity to send a strong message to others in his position who might be enticed by online extremists promising fame and honor," the feds added.

Because Khalid is not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face deportation proceedings and could be sent back to Pakistan after he serves his sentence.

Jeffrey Lindy, Khalid's attorney, contended that Khalid and his co-defendants paled in comparison to serious terrorists.

"He was messing around the Internet with Colleen LaRose, who had as much chance killing the cartoonist as the average Joe on the street," Lindy said. "This was a terrorism case in name only. In the world of suicide bombers, al Qaeda and other serious terrorists, Colleen LaRose and her crew barely even moved the needle on the Richter scale."

LaRose, 50, who had lived in Pennsburg, Montgomery County, and who was known by her online moniker "Jihad Jane," pleaded guilty in February 2011 to plotting to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The plot never came to fruition.

In January, LaRose, who also cooperated with the government, was sentenced by Tucker to 10 years in federal prison.

Lindy said Khalid's sentencing hearing "finally concludes what probably has been one of my most painful cases." Khalid, "who has documented mental-health issues" and who because of those issues was "isolated and withdrawn" in Pakistan, felt even more isolated as an adolescent in the United States, Lindy said.

Noting the full scholarship to Johns Hopkins, which Khalid was never able to make use of because of his arrest, Lindy said: "Here is a kid who embodied the American dream. . . . But because of what this kid did and with whom he did it, his life is forever changed."

Khalid began chatting online with alleged radical Islamists at age 15. The feds said in their sentencing memo that Khalid's "criminal activities may have occurred predominantly online, but they presented a very real danger to Westerners everywhere."

"He worked tirelessly posting English translations of violent jihad propaganda in an effort to recruit other like-minded individuals," they wrote.

The feds accused Khalid of helping co-defendant Ali Charaf Damache, an Algerian man who lived in Ireland, with recruiting violent jihadists and helping to "assemble a terrorist cell that planned to train with al Qaeda and execute attacks in the West."

He was also accused of helping LaRose destroy and hide evidence from the FBI and obtaining a U.S. passport from her, which he intended to give to a "brother" mujahedeen.

"The stuff he wrote [online] was terrible, but he was an adolescent," Lindy said. "I'm not representing a foreign terrorist here. I'm representing a kid."

LaRose flew to Amsterdam in 2009 after getting her assignment to kill Vilks. She then flew to Ireland to meet up with Damache, who allegedly was to train her in terrorism activities. Her attorney has said the plan to kill Vilks was "more aspirational than operational."

Another co-defendant, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, 35, a Colorado mother who traveled to Ireland to marry Damache, and who brought her 6-year-old son with her, was sentenced by Tucker to eight years in prison. She had pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists.

Damache was arrested in Ireland, where he is fighting extradition to the United States.

Lindy said Khalid has been getting "zero" treatment for his mental-health issues in the city's Federal Detention Center. He wanted Khalid transferred to a secure state juvenile treatment facility near Harrisburg where he could get treatment, but the government opposed that.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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