Why do you think he had the sudden change of mine? What is his punishmnet going to be?
Walker Lindh pleads guilty to aiding Taliban
President Bush briefed, approved deal
July 15, 2002 Posted: 3:44 PM EDT (1944 GMT)
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty Monday to two charges, including aiding the Taliban, in a deal with prosecutors that spared him from life in prison.
The deal sends him to jail for up to 20 years, guarantees his cooperation with U.S. officials and drops the charge of conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals that could have put him in prison for life.
The 21-year-old California native, captured along with Taliban forces late last year in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban and possessing explosives in the commission of that crime. In exchange, eight other charges were dropped.
He can be sentenced to 10 years in prison on each of the two counts.
"As part of the agreement Lindh agreed to cooperate fully with the government including to provide information and testify if necessary at trials or other proceedings, including military tribunals," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. (More on Ashcroft's comments)
John Walker Lindh has pleaded guilty to two charges. They are:
Providing material, support and resources to al Qaeda
Using, carrying and possessing firearms and destructive devices during crimes of violence
Federal prosecutors agreed to drop eight charges. They are:
Conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals
Conspiracy to provide material, support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations
Providing material support and resources to foreign terrorist organizations
Conspiracy to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda
Conspiracy to contribute services to al Qaeda
Contributing services to al Qaeda
Conspiracy to provide services to the Taliban
Providing services to the Taliban
The agreement, which was reached at 1 a.m. Monday, came before hearings were to start over a 10-count indictment.
The negotiations started six weeks ago and went on throughout the weekend, lawyers said. President Bush was repeatedly briefed about the negotiations and was satisfied with the results. (More on Bush approving the plea deal)
A key to his agreement was that Walker Lindh will have to serve 20 years in prison.
But Walker Lindh's attorney James Brosnahan said Walker Lindh would be eligible for release in 17 years, with good behavior.
As part of the deal, Walker Lindh must cooperate in continuing investigations into what he knew about the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, with whom he had met. That means he will have to take polygraph tests as requested, said U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty.
"He's happy to cooperate in any way he can," said James Brosnahan, Walker Lindh's attorney. "He doesn't know a lot, but whatever they want to know, he'll talk to them. And he's glad to do it."
In addition, should he associate with terrorists after he is released, he could be hauled back into court, where he would be considered an enemy combatant, McNulty said.
Walker Lindh was in the courtroom as the announcement was made. He turned and smiled to members of his family and friends.
He was taken into custody along with other Taliban fighters in Afghanistan last year. He was identified as an American citizen after a bloody prison uprising, which began in late November in Afghanistan. During that uprising, CIA agent Mike Spann was killed.
Among the dismissed counts was one alleging Walker Lindh was involved in Spann's death.
"I am very disappointed," Mike Spann's father, Johnny Spann, said after the plead agreement was announced. " My son and all those who are serving overseas have been let down by this decision."
Other charges against Walker Lindh included conspiring to kill Americans overseas, providing support to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and using firearms and other destructive devices during crimes of violence.
If convicted of all the charges, he could have received up to three life sentences, plus 90 years in prison.
"This is a great accomplishment for the United States government and justice has been well served," said McNulty. "We are quite confident, if we had gone to trial, we would have prevailed on all counts."
He added, "This is a major sentence and I think it proves the strength of our case."
As part of the deal, Walker Lindh has also agreed to forgo any profit from his role as a soldier for the Taliban. "All proceeds of his story would go to the federal government," McNulty said. Walker Lindh also has withdrawn any claims that he was mistreated by the U.S. military, he added.
U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty: "An important victory for the American people."
"This is a tough sentence, this is an appropriate punishment, this proves the criminal justice system can be an effective tool in combating terrorism," Brosnahan said.
In a written statement, Walker Lindh's attorneys said, "The plea agreement makes clear Mr. Lindh never bore nor currently bears allegiance to al Qaeda, Harakat al-Mujahideen, or any other terrorist organization. In addition, Mr. Lindh bears no allegiance to the Taliban. ...
"All claims of mistreatment of Mr. Lindh have been withdrawn, and his continued cooperation is an indication of his lack of hostility towards our armed services."
Brosnahan noted with pleasure that the terrorism counts were all dismissed. "He has never had any animosity towards any American serving this country," the lawyer said. "He never hurt anybody."
"I think any father who knew John would be proud to claim him for a son, and I mean that," said Walker Lindh's father, Frank Lindh. "John loves America, and we love America. God bless America."
Brosnahan said his client will continue to study Arabic, the history of Islam and the Qu'ran while in prison.
Walker Lindh was surprised when he heard about the Sept. 11 attacks, and never supported them, Brosnahan said. "He wanted to leave shortly after September 11th, but he couldn't because of fear of death," the lawyer added. "When he heard that this had happened, he didn't know what to make, it was just beyond his comprehension."
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