American who aided Mumbai terror attack sentenced to 35 years

In a courtroom drawing, David Coleman Headley pleads guilty in U.S. District Court in Chicago in 2010.

Story highlights

  • David Headley receives sentence that prosecutors recommended
  • He faced up to a life sentence for conviction related to the deadly 2008 Mumbai attack
  • Prosecutors say Headley has cooperated with government efforts to combat terrorism
  • Headley is accused of attending terrorism training camps and plotting attacks
He grew up a child of two nations -- the United States and Pakistan -- with a parent from each.
He was born Daood Gilani, the son of a prominent Pakistani broadcaster, but in 2006 he changed his name to David Headley.
In a federal courtroom in Chicago on Thursday, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his role in the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 164 people, including six U.S. citizens.
Headley has admitted conducting advance surveillance for the operation in India.
Although Headley, 52, was facing up to life in prison, the Justice Department recommended that the judge sentence him to the term he eventually got after the defendant cooperated with U.S. authorities.
Prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for his plea on terrorism charges. He signed that agreement in 2010 and promised to cooperate with U.S. authorities.
India executes last Mumbai attacker
India executes last Mumbai attacker


    India executes last Mumbai attacker


India executes last Mumbai attacker 01:38
Attorney General Eric Holder noted at the time that he had provided extensive "valuable intelligence about terrorist activities."
Name change helped facilitate the surveillance in India
Headley was arrested by federal agents on October 2009 in Chicago, accused of helping plan terror attacks against a Danish newspaper that ran cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, sparking Muslim anger worldwide.
He was later linked to the bloody four-day terrorist siege in Mumbai. Headley cooperated with the authorities investigating both terror plots.
Headley received a Social Security number in Pennsylvania sometime in the late 1970s, public records show.
He changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Headley on or about February 15, 2006, in Philadelphia in order to present himself in India as an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani, according to a criminal complaint against him.
The Justice Department also accused him of attending terrorism training camps in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003, and working with the group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba to carry out terror attacks.
The United States lists Lashkar as a terrorist organization. India blamed the group for the Mumbai attacks.
Terror testimony
Headley testified against a Canadian man who was sentenced last week to 14 years in prison for aiding a plot to attack the Danish paper.
Gary Shapiro, the acting U.S. attorney in Chicago, issued a lengthy sentencing memo to the federal district court on Tuesday concluding that the 30- to 35-year sentence the government recommended for Headley was fair.
"While his criminal conduct was deplorable, the uniquely significant cooperation which he provided to the government's efforts to combat terrorism support the government's recommendations," Shapiro said.
The Indian government wants to conduct another trial for Headley, but the United States has said it would not send him to any other country.