American Mumbai plotter sentenced to 35 years

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 25, 2013 at 1:41 am •  Published: January 25, 2013
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Ragsdale painted a detailed picture of the gory scene as she huddled under the table with Scherr's husband Alan and her daughter, Naomi. After the initial gunfire, they were all still alive, and she said she would have thrown her body across the teen to shield her.

"That moment still haunts me," she said, crying, as she looked straight at Headley and he diverted his eyes. She said she passed out from her injuries under the table and "awoke to hear Naomi take her last breath."

Headley showed no emotion when the sentence was announced. Earlier, when the judge asked if him if he wanted to address the court, he leaned forward and said politely, "No your honor, I expressed everything in the letter I wrote you."

That letter was not read in court, but defense attorney Robert Seeder — without offering specifics — told reporters afterward that Headley used the note to explain "what led him to this and how sorry he was."

Prosecutors say Headley, who was born in the U.S. to a Pakistani father and American mother, was motivated in part by his hatred of India going back to his childhood. He changed his birth name from Daood Gilani in 2006 so he could travel to and from India more easily to do reconnaissance without raising suspicions.

He never pulled a trigger in the attack by the Pakistani-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, but he videotaped and mapped targets for the gunmen.

Prosecutors also have praised Headley for testifying against Tahawwur Rana, the Chicago businessman convicted of providing aid to Lashkar and backing a failed plot to attack a Danish newspaper for publishing depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. Rana, sentenced last week to 14 years in prison, claimed his friend Headley duped him.

Prosecutors have recounted only in broad terms how Headley has shed light on the leadership, structure and possible targets of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was believed to have ties to the Pakistani intelligence agency known as ISI. Headley has said his ISI contact was a "Major Iqbal," who was named in the indictment that charged Headley.

The attackers arrived by boat on Nov. 26, 2008, carrying grenades and automatic weapons, and fanned out to hit multiple targets, crowded train station, a Jewish center and the hotel.

For his cooperation and guilty plea, Headley secured both a promise that he would not face the death penalty and would not be extradited to India. Late last year, India secretly hanged the lone gunman who survived the Mumbai attack, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab.

The 12 counts Headley pleaded guilty to included conspiracy to commit murder in India and aiding and abetting in the murder of six Americans, who included Americans Alan and Naomi Scherr.

After the attack, Kia Scherr helped start an organization called the One Life Alliance, which seeks to work against terrorism by promoting understanding and respect for the sacredness of life.

She wrote in an email Thursday from Mumbai that she has thrown herself into doing charity work in the city.

"This is how I am surviving this event, which erased life as I knew it," she said.

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Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm