Feds in NY seek 25 years in Saudi ambassador plot

AP News
Posted: May 03, 2013 7:46 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors are seeking a 25-year prison sentence for a Texas man who admits he plotted to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, saying he deserves the maximum in part because he didn't care if an explosive he sought to put in a Washington restaurant killed a lot of people.

In papers filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the government called the plot Manssor Arbabsiar planned to carry out with members of the Iranian military an "extremely serious crime."

Arbabsiar, 57, pleaded guilty in October to two conspiracy charges and a murder-for-hire count. The U.S. citizen has an Iranian passport and lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, working in real estate and automobile sales since moving to the United States in 1977. Sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Arbabsiar, who was born in Iran, admitted he was directed by Iranian military officials to go to Mexico on multiple occasions from the spring to the fall of 2011 to arrange the assassination attempt, which never occurred.

The government said Arbabsiar recognized his planned attack on the ambassador at a Washington restaurant likely would've resulted in mass casualties.

"A large number of bystanders who had done nothing other than chose to eat in a particular restaurant were very likely to be killed as a result of the assassination of the ambassador," the government said. "Nonetheless, Arbabsiar quickly dismissed the significance of those additional civilian casualties and on numerous occasions demonstrated a callous disregard for all those who would be killed."

Prosecutors said Arbabsiar told a confidential government source that killing innocent bystanders, including U.S. senators who the source suggested would likely be at the restaurant, was "no problem" and "no big deal."

The government said Arbabsiar also told law enforcement officials in his post-arrest statements that he had demanded at least $1 million for his involvement in the plot in addition to the $25,000 he was given by the Qods Force, a branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that in 2007 was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a supporter of the Taliban and terrorist organizations.

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"This plot, had it been successfully completed, would not only have killed the ambassador and numerous innocent bystanders, but also severely impacted international and diplomatic relationships of the United States," prosecutors wrote.

They said the plot was thwarted only because the person Arbabsiar recruited to assist his co-conspirators happened to be working as a source for law enforcement.

Defense lawyers argued for leniency, saying Arbabsiar's crimes were undeniably serious but also "the result of a severe mental breakdown caused by a longstanding, untreated bipolar disorder, worsened by the death of his father and his best friend in the same year. Mr. Arbabsiar's criminal behavior is entirely aberrational, with no precedent in his life."

They asked for no more than a 10-year sentence and added: "He has had no involvement or interest in Middle Eastern or Iranian politics, and absolutely no involvement in any terrorism, international intrigue, or anything of the sort, until his involvement in this bizarre offense."