A US woman involved in a plot to kill a Swedish artist, who drew an image offensive to Muslims, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Fifty-year-old Colleen LaRose, who called herself “Jihad Jane” online after converting to Islam, had agreed to kill the artist in 2009.
She faced a potential life term, but the judge on Monday accepted a government request to reduce the sentence because of her extensive cooperation with investigators and the help she had given them in terrorism cases since her arrest.
Prosecutors still asked for decades in prison, saying she remains dangerous but agreed that LaRose was isolated and endured harsh abuse throughout her life.
Ms LaRose had such a big impact in the public and press because she really did change the face of what the world thought of as a violent jihadist.
She pleaded guilty to following orders in 2009 from alleged al-Qaeda operatives when she travelled to Europe intending to participate in a plot to shoot artist Lars Vilks in the chest six times.
LaRose, however, became impatient with the men who lured her to Europe, giving up the task after six weeks and returning to Philadelphia, where she was arrested.
LaRose, who has retained her faith, apologised for blindly following instructions of her handlers during Monday’s hearing.
“I was in a trance and I couldn’t see anything else,” she said.
Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams had sought “decades behind bars” for LaRose, arguing that despite her extensive cooperation, she still was a danger to society.
“This is a sentencing that people are watching,” Williams said on Monday. “Ms LaRose had such a big impact in the public and press because she really did change the face of what the world thought of as a violent jihadist.
“It was scary for people to hear that Ms LaRose could have been radicalised simply online in the US.”
Defence lawyer Mark Wilson said the plot to kill Vilks was “more aspirational than operational” and that LaRose had never even fired a gun.
Lonely and vulnerable
He had described LaRose as a lonely and vulnerable woman easily manipulated by others online. Her behaviour, while not excusable, can be explained in part by deep psychological scars from her childhood, he said.
LaRose’s biological father repeatedly raped her from about age seven to 13, when she ran away and became a prostitute, according to court documents. At age 16, LaRose married a man twice her age and later became a heavy drug user.
“I survived a lot of things that should have rightfully have killed me,” LaRose told Reuters news agency in a 2012 interview.
While LaRose was in contact with an al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan, her conspirators repeatedly bungled a plot that never moved much past the planning stages.
Vilks had told Reuters that he believes LaRose has spent enough time in prison and should be freed..