By John Shiffman
(Reuters) - A Colorado woman who converted to Islam and went to Ireland to join a man she believed was training for terrorist operations was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday.
Jamie Paulin Ramirez, 35, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Philadelphia to providing material support to terrorists.
She was nicknamed "Jihad Jamie" by the media following her 2010 arrest because she had joined a group in Ireland that included another American-born, white-skinned, blonde-haired woman, Colleen LaRose, who called herself "Jihad Jane."
The two women were lured to Europe by Islamist extremists who hoped to use their appearance and U.S. passports to carry out violent attacks, prosecutors said.
LaRose was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for her role in an al Qaeda-linked plot to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims by portraying the head of the prophet Mohammad on the body of a dog. Ramirez was not implicated in that plot but pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of providing material support to terrorists.
Prosecutors, who had sought at least a 20-year sentence for LaRose, asked for at least a 10-year sentence for Ramirez, alleging that she allowed the alleged Irish ringleader, Ali Charaf Damache, to train her young son for violence. They cited a video she recorded of the boy in Ireland wearing a robe and a scarf, and carrying toy gun. On the video, prosecutors said, she commands her son to "attack the kuffar," or non-believers, and he fires the toy gun.
Ramirez and LaRose were sentenced by Petrese Tucker, the chief judge of the federal court in Philadelphia, and will receive credit for time already served.
LaRose introduced Ramirez to Damache during an online chat in July 2009. Two months later, Ramirez left Colorado without telling friends or family and flew to southern Ireland with her 6-year-old son to marry Damache. She expected to support him as a wife while he trained to engage in Islamist attacks.
"Damache and his associates were truly dangerous people, motivated by hate and prejudice and a desire to exact revenge on non-believers," prosecutors Jennifer Aribittier Williams and Matthew Blue said in court filings. "By the time Ramirez traveled to join Damache in Ireland, she knew and intended that her travel and presence overseas would provide material support to Damache's terrorist conspiracy."
Ramirez's lawyer, Jeremy H.G. Ibrahim, said that she was vulnerable and duped by Damache, who promised to guide her in the ways of Islam. Within months of arriving, Ramirez came to believe she had made a mistake and that Damache had wanted little more than "a sex slave," according to case records.
"Jaime is at no risk for recidivism and in fact has continued to address the two factors that caused her to commit the offense in the first place: her understanding of Islam and her strengthening of her self-esteem," Ibrahim said in a court filing.
Ibrahim said that Ramirez cooperated with the FBI from the moment she was arrested and noted that she has since adopted and practiced a non-violent understanding of Islam.
Ramirez was arrested with Damache in March 2010 at their apartment in Waterford, Ireland. He remains in prison in Ireland, fighting extradition to the United States.
A fourth person indicted in the case, Mohammed Khalid, 20, of Ellicott City, Maryland, has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and is expected to be sentenced later this year. Khalid was 16 years old at the time of some of his offenses, making him the youngest person ever charged with terrorism in the United States.
(Reporting By John Shiffman; Editing by Bill Trott)