A Mississippi woman and former honors college student was sentenced to serve 12 years in prison on Thursday after she pleaded guilty to secretly making plans to join the Islamic State group.
People reports that Jaelyn Young, a native of Vicksburg, sobbed heavily as U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock handed down a 12-year sentence for one felony count of “providing material support or resources to terrorists.” The 21-year-old pleaded guilty to a similar charge in March, and originally faced 20 years in prison.
Young, who was majoring in chemistry Mississippi State University, converted to Islam while in college, and convinced her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, to make plans to travel with her to Istanbul, Turkey, to join ISIS. Dakhlalla also pleaded guilty in March to similar charges.
Young admitted her actions to her parents in a farewell letter that was later obtained for evidence.
“I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure. I am guilty of what you soon will find out.”
In August, 2015, Young and Dakhlalla were detained at an airport before boarding to Istanbul. Court records indicate she used her mother’s credit card without permission to purchase the tickets. Once apprehended, police booked the couple in an Oxford, Mississippi, jail, where they’ve remained since. Authorities were alerted to their plans when in May, they contacted undercover federal agents, seeking help with resources to get to Syria.
In March, 2015, Young began wearing a burqa, as part of her conversion to Islam. She also began seeking out friendships with other Muslims while distancing herself from non-Muslims. According to court documents, prosecutors indicated the following.
“After her conversion, Young distanced herself from family and friends and felt spending time with non-Muslims would be a bad influence.”
Along with constantly complaining about the treatment of Muslims in the U.S., court records state that Young used most of her free time with Dakhlalla to convince him to support ISIS. After watching videos containing pro-Islamic State messages, Young began to see the terrorist group as liberators and saviors. The following is according to the prosecution.
“Young continually asked Dakhlalla when they were going to join (the Islamic State group) and began to express hatred for the U.S. government and to express support for the implementation of Sharia law in the United States.”
Young told undercover FBI agents that Dakhlalla wanted to treat wounded people help spread ISIS messages to the media. She also said her fiance wanted to learn “what it really means to have that heart in battle.”
“We understand that the Young’s love their daughter and have supported her educational career and will stand by her through the legal process. At this time the Young family is going through an extremely difficult time and we would like to keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Meanwhile, Dakhlalla’s family thought their son was gearing up to start graduate school at Mississippi State, and were completely left in the dark regarding his plans to join ISIS. According to defense attorney Dennis Harmon, the family was “absolutely stunned” when they learned about their son’s plans. The lawyer also said that Dakhlalla’s father, Oda Dakhlalla, preaches peace and love, and was never associated with ISIS.
“When Oda teaches, he teaches Islam as peace… He has nothing to do with the Islam of (ISIS).”
Jaelyn Young and Muhammad Dakhlalla had known each other less than a year when they made plans to support ISIS. Dahkhlalla will face sentencing later this month.
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