AUSTIN, Texas — A man who pleaded guilty to charges that he recruited terrorists while he was a top student at the University of Texas has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Rahatul Ashikim Khan is a Bangladesh-born U.S. citizen and the son of a U.S. Army psychiatrist. He told a federal judge Friday that he's not anti-American. He earlier pleaded guilty to material support of terrorism. He's among those the FBI says are a growing number of "homegrown terrorists" across the U.S.
Khan's attorneys say the 24-year-old was an impressionable student who was affected by heavy marijuana use.
Prosecutors call Khan a "violent jihadist" and say he nearly helped a Houston-born suspect fly to Syria.
Khan was accused of using Internet message boards to identify potential terrorists while pulling a 3.75 GPA and even as his mother counseled soldiers at Fort Hood who had returned from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When I was young, I ran into people who showed me the suffering of people all over the world," Khan told the court before his sentencing. "That led me to believe I had to do something."
Others may have also been influenced by Khan, prosecutors said.
"I don't know that the government knows all the people he planted seeds with," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Sofer said. "The stakes are incredibly high here for the U.S."
Khan's mother and other family members asked the judge for leniency, saying he owned up to his mistake and had a good heart.
Sparks called his sentence reasonable and described Khan's actions before being caught as scary.
"You pulled away," Sparks told Khan, "but you pulled away in an instance when you left a mess."