By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - An Arizona teenager who the FBI has said professed to be an "American jihadist" was sentenced on Friday to eight years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime on probation, for plotting to bomb a state motor vehicle office.
Mahin Khan, 18, described by his parents as developmentally disabled, received one more year than the minimum prison term he faced during an emotional court hearing in Phoenix for his guilty plea to crimes committed while he was still a minor.
The Tucson resident pleaded guilty last month to all three felony charges against him: terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit misconduct involving weapons.
Under terms of Khan's plea deal, Maricopa County prosecutors had agreed to seek a sentence ranging from seven to 14 years. If tried and convicted, he could have received a life term.
Khan, shackled and wearing prison stripes, declined to address the court during the proceedings.
His parents, along with more than a dozen family and supporters, asked Judge Dean Fink for leniency, characterizing the defendant as a misguided, troubled youth with a history of mental health problems. They argued that his words were empty threats.
”I hope, sir, that you are able to see that in reality, he is a lost and confused child who needs help,” said Atif Khan, the defendant's father, adding that his son had shown significant remorse for his actions.
Khan, whose parents have said he suffers from autism and developmental delays that have left him with the mental age of a 12-year-old, was arrested in July after having been on the FBI’s radar screen for several years.
But the situation grew more serious after Khan expressed to an FBI undercover operative his desire to kill hundreds of people in Arizona through “lone jihadist” attacks, according to court testimony.
In an affidavit filed in court, the FBI said Khan described himself as an "American jihadist" loyal to Islamic State, the militant group that seized parts of Syria and Iraq and claimed responsibility for deadly bomb and gun attacks in other countries.
Khan ultimately was charged with a plotting to obtain bombs to attack a state Motor Vehicle Division office in the Phoenix area.
“Everyone in Arizona deserves to feel safe, and anybody that threatens our safety deserves to be in prison,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told Reuters outside the courthouse. “I think justice has been done.”
(Editing by Steve Gorman and James Dalgleish)