His hands and legs in chains, his conversation subdued, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis was taken aboard a small private plane last Tuesday and flown to a high-rise federal prison in downtown Chicago. The only other people aboard the plane were three deputy U.S. marshals and the pilot.
Khaalis, sentenced that day in D.C. Superior Court to serve 41 to 123 years in prison for his role in the seizure of three Washington buildings last March, wanted his family to know that "he went away strong," said Deputy U.S. Marshal William H. Walkup, who sat beside Khaalis during the four-hour trip.
The 56-year-old KHaalis, known as the khalifa of leader to his followers in the Hanafi Muslim faith, spoke of the scriptures and at times closed his eyes and meditated, Walkup said. He mentioned that he had once lived in Chicago and complimented the pilot of the twin-engine aircraft on the smooth flight. He was, said Walkup, "a gentleman at all times."
Khaalis remained chained during the entire journey.
Meanwhile, the 11 other Hanafi MUslims who also were sentenced Tuesday to long prison terms in connection with the takeovers, were taken to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Ill. Located in a corner of a national game refuge, Marion is said to have the tightest security of any federal prison in country.
These 11 also in chains and isolated in a special caged section of the bus during the 20-hour trip.
At the start of the 900-mile journey, some of the defendants laughed about the length of their prison terms, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Ronald Hein. Hein, another deputy U.S. marshal and four officials from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons accompanied the prisoners.
"The language was coarse," Hein said, about the prison sentences and about Judge NIcholas S. Nunzio, who impose the sentences.
The 11 "whistled and clapped" when they were told they were going to Marion, said Hein.
As the hours wore on, the defendants slept in shifts, smoked cigarettes, ate fruit and drank coffee and water, Hein said.
One asked the whereabouts of Khaalis, and another wanted to know whether the 11 would be separated while in prison, Hein said.
When the bus pulled in front of the federal pentitentiary, and the plane carrying Khaalis landed at Chicago's Midway Airport, the marshals exchanged their prisoners for "live-body receipts," pink sheets that listed the names of each convict.
The eleborate and carefully coordinated transportation plan marked an orderly end to one of the most publicized crimes in this city's history.
Walkup described the trip as "just almost a routine thing" during an interview yesterday.
Deputy Graham Clark who supervised the operation laughed at Walkup's remark. "I can tell you three people who were relieved," he said, indicating himself and U.S. Marshal J. Jerome Bullock and Deputy Richard Oakrum, who is in charge of courtroom security.
It came as a surprise to Khaalis that he was not returned to the D.C. jail after he was sentenced Tuesday, Walkup said. Instead, Khaalis was taken from the courtroom, and placed in a green sedan with deputy U.S. marshals.
The car, escorted by U.S. Park Police and a car full of marshals, immediately set out for Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Before he boarded the plane there one marshal said Khaalis turned and said "I'll be back out on the street."
After each of the 11 other defendants were sentenced, they were assembled in two cellblocks at the U.S. District Court, a short distance from the Superior Court.
After they were searched and photographed, they were put aboard the bus, which was escorted, front and rear, by two cars, with three deputy U.S. marshals in each.
Along the way, the bus stopped six times for gasoline at various truck made one wrong turn stops, and rendezvoused with federal authorities along the Pennsylvania Turnpike to pick up a supply of food for the defendants.
When Khaalis arrived at the airport, one of the deputies from Washington wished him good luck and he expressed his thanks. When his codefendants arrived in Marion, they entered the prison in the same silent, military-like fashion that became a familiar sight during their trial.
Khaalis is being held in the Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center. He is in a private room that is locked at all times. The room has floor-to-ceiling windows so narrow that bars are not needed, according to a spokesman there.
The center is a holding facility and prison authorities indicated yesterday that Khaalis probably would be transferred to another facility to serve out his prison term.
The 11 other defendants are incarcerated in a tightly guarded area of the maximum security facility at Marion, according to a spokesman there. Opened in 1963 shortly after Alcatrz - the maximum security facility on an island in San Francisco Bay - was abandoned, Marion is a highly automated, highly secure prison facility.
The Hanafis currently are under-going a 30-day classification procedure at Marion and could be transferred to other facilities depending on the outcome of that process, the spokesman said. Nunzio had recommended that they serve their sentences in separate prisons.