A Pakistani immigrant who is the youngest person ever convicted of U.S. terror charges was sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday by a federal judge after pleading guilty to taking part in a plot to kill a Swedish artist.
The immigrant, Mohammad Hassan Khalid, 20, who was taken into custody three years ago for his role in the "Jihad Jane" conspiracy, will serve an additional two years in prison as a result of his crimes, ruled Petrese Tucker, chief judge for U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Khalid begged the judge for mercy and thanked his parents for their support during a court appearance.
"Mom, Dad, you will forgive me 1,000 times even though I don't ask for it," said Khalid, who pleaded guilty to committing related crimes when he was as young as 15 and living in his parents' apartment in suburban Maryland.
He was arrested in 2011 on charges including providing material support for terrorists for working with a suburban Philadelphia housewife who went by the nickname Jihad Jane, whose real name is Colleen LaRose.
LaRose in January was sentenced to 10 years in prison for planning to murder artist Lars Vilks, who had depicted the head of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad on a dog.
Khalid could have faced up to 15 years in prison but prosecutors asked for a shorter sentence because he cooperated after his arrest.
Prosecutors had asked for a stiff sentence, saying one would be needed to deter others from following Khalid's example.
"Khalid's status as a young U.S. terror recruit has captured the world's attention," prosecutors said in court papers.
Khalid's lawyer called the case overblown and described his client as an awkward, isolated and vulnerable boy who has since been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.
The link between LaRose and Khalid, and his double life as honor student and online jihadist, were chronicled in a 2011 Reuters investigative series.
LaRose admitted to following orders in 2009 from alleged al Qaeda operatives. She traveled to Ireland that fall to meet an Algerian, Ali Damache, whom she believed would train her.
The plot did not materialize and Damache is fighting extradition from Ireland to the United States on terror charges. In court filings, prosecutors said Khalid helped Damache recruit others and helped LaRose destroy evidence.
Officials said Khalid "worked tirelessly" with two other American men now serving long prison terms on terror charges in other failed plots, Emerson Begolly and Reed Stanley Berry. Prosecutors say he helped them translate violent jihad videos from Urdu to English.
Prosecutors also cited online postings in which Khalid tried to raise money for terrorists, but there is no public evidence that anyone ever sent him any money.