CHICAGO — An American was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in prison for the key role he played in a 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai that has been called India's 9/11.
David Coleman Headley's meticulous scouting missions facilitated the assault by 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group, which killed 160 people, including children and six Americans.
"I don't have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he's a changed person and believes in the American way of life," U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber said in imposing the sentence, which was in the range of what prosecutors had requested.
The attackers arrived by boat Nov. 26, 2008, carrying grenades and automatic weapons, and fanned out to hit multiple targets: a crowded train station, a Jewish center and the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel. TV cameras captured much of the three-day rampage live.
Before Leinenweber imposed the sentence, a victim shot in the attack gave emotional testimony Thursday morning. Linda Ragsdale, a children's author from Nashville, spoke through tears describing how she lost friends in the attacks and her own injuries.
"I know what a bullet can do to every part of the human body," she said. "I know the sound of life leaving a 13-year-old child. These are things I never needed to know, never needed to experience."
Headley, 52, faced a maximum of life in prison. He agreed to cooperate and plead guilty in 2010 to 12 counts to avoid facing a death sentence. He also secured a promise not to be extradited to India.
Citing what they described as valuable intelligence Headley provided about terrorist networks since his arrest, prosecutors asked for a relatively lenient sentence of 30 to 35 years.
Late last year, India hanged the lone surviving gunman.