A US federal court has condemned Colleen LaRose to 10 years in prison for plotting to wage jihad in Europe and South Asia. Known as "Jihad Jane," she plotted to kill a Swedish cartoonist for depicting Mohammad as a dog.
Although LaRose originally faced the possibility of life in prison, Judge Petrese Tucker agreed on Monday to give her a reduced sentence of 10 years in prison, due to her cooperation with US authorities.
LaRose had already pled guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, making false statements, and identity theft. Her accomplice, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez, has also pled guilty and will face sentencing on Wednesday.
A convert to Islam, 50-year-old LaRose called herself "Jihad Jane" online. She had agreed in 2009 to assassinate Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his drawings, which depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The Justice Department said that LaRose and her accomplice were recruited by Ali Charaf Damache, who was living in Ireland, via extremist websites.
A native of Pennsylvania, LaRose believed that her American citizenship and appearance would help her stalk Vilks in Sweden. But she failed to carry out the plot. LaRose returned to the US in 2009 and surrendered herself to authorities. The indictment against her remained sealed until her co-conspirators were arrested in Ireland.
"This case clearly underscores the evolving nature of the terrorist threat we now face in this country," said Zane David Memeger, US attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"The Internet has made it easier for those who want to attack the American way of life to identify like-minded individuals to carry out their terroristic plans," he continued.
Defense lawyers called LaRose the perfect target for radicalization, due to a tortured childhood plagued by rape, incest, hunger and alcoholism at home. Her marriages were abusive and she came to use crystal meth and other drugs, according to public defender Mark Wilson. But the prosecution said that she remained dangerous.
Vilks told the Associated Press that while he understands the principle of handing down tough sentences to deter future terrorists, he believed the sentence was too harsh given her troubled past.
"To lock her up for so many years seems like overkill to me," Vilks said. "This is a person who has been through a lot of difficulties in her life and needs mental care more than anything else."
slk/lw (AP, AFP, dpa)