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Prison term sought for Jihad Jane

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By Reuters
Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:18 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — The Pennsylvania woman who called herself Jihad Jane and a teenage accomplice from Maryland provided “very significant” assistance to U.S. authorities in several terrorism investigations but still remain threats to the public, prosecutors say in new court filings.

Prosecutors said Colleen LaRose, 50, should be sentenced to decades in prison for her role in a failed 2009 plot to kill Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who offended many Muslims by drawing the Prophet Mohammed on the head of a dog.

After years of delay, the American-born LaRose is expected to be sentenced on Monday in Philadelphia. A similar hearing for Mohammad Hassan Khalid, the youngest person ever charged with terrorism in the United States, is set for Tuesday.

Guidelines call for LaRose to receive a life sentence and for Khalid, who is now 20, to receive 15 years. Given their cooperation, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence LaRose to “decades behind bars” and Khalid to “less than 10 years.”

In a presentence filing this week, authorities reiterated what they declared when LaRose's arrest was made public in 2010 — that her gender, blond hair, Texas twang and green eyes make her case significant because she does not fit the stereotype of an Islamic terrorist.

“News of LaRose's arrest spread shock waves throughout the West, as people recognized that the face of the terrorism threat had changed forever,” prosecutors Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Matthew Blue wrote. “The world is watching, and this sentencing presents an important opportunity to send a strong message to other lonely, vulnerable people who might be enticed by online extremists promising fame and honor.”

A 2012 Reuters investigative report described LaRose's troubled life before she converted to Islam: childhood rapes by her biological father, teenage prostitution, heavy drug abuse and failed marriages. LaRose said her father's sexual assaults, confirmed by confidential court records, began in second grade.

“I survived a lot of things that should have rightfully killed me,” LaRose said in an exclusive interview from jail in 2012.

LaRose's story has helped prosecutors and FBI agents better understand the roots of homegrown extremism, officials said.

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