Shannon Conley, 19, of Arvada, Colorado, was sentenced to 4 years in prison today by U.S. District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore, followed by 3 years on supervised release for conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
“Jihad Shannon” as she has come to be known, appeared at the hearing in the custody of Federal Marshals and was remanded at its conclusion.
Conley told the judge she was misled while pursuing Islam and learned only after her arrest about atrocities committed by the extremists she was taught to respect.
“I am glad I have learned of their true identity here and not on the front lines,” said Conley, whose black and tan headscarf clashed against her striped jail uniform. “I disavow these radical views I’ve come to know and I now believe in the true Islam in which peace is encouraged.”
However, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt, saying he doubted Conley’s views had changed, and she needs psychological help.
He also sentenced her to three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service and barred her from possessing black powder used in explosives, saying, “I’m not going to take a chance with you.”
“I don’t know what has been crystallized in your mind,” Moore told her, adding that he hoped the sentence would discourage others with similar intentions. “I’m still not sure you get it.”
Conley was first charged by criminal complaint on April 9, 2014. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on Sept. 10, 2014.
According to documents in the plea agreement, from February 2014 and continuing through April 8, 2014, Conley and a co-conspirator unlawfully worked together and with other individuals to provide and attempt to provide material support and resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, specifically Al-Qaeda (AQ) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), aka the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), aka the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The conspiracy was accomplished, in part, when Conley met the co-conspirator on the Internet.
During their communications, they shared their view of Islam as requiring participation in violent jihad.
The co-conspirator communicated to Conley that he was an active member of a group fighting in Syria known as ISIS.
The two then decided to become engaged and worked together to have Conley travel to Syria to join her new fiancé.
Before traveling to Syria, Conley refined and obtained additional training and skills in order to provide support and assistance to any AQ and/or ISIS fighter. Conley also intended to fight if it became necessary to do so.
The indictment stated that Conley joined the U.S. Army Explorers (USAE) to be trained in U.S. military tactics and in firearms.
She traveled to Texas and attended the USAE training. She also obtained first aid/nursing certification and National Rifle Association certification. Conley knew that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization.
In fact, on numerous occasions, Special Agents with the FBI met with her in attempts to persuade her not to carry out her plans to travel overseas to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization and to engage in violent jihad.
On March 29, 2014, the co-conspirator, together with others, arranged for an airline ticket to be purchased for Conley to travel to Turkey, departing from Denver on April 8, 2014. On April 8, 2014, Conley traveled to Denver International Airport and attempted to board the flight to Turkey. She was then arrested by FBI agents.
A subsequent search of Conley’s home revealed DVDs of Anwar Al-Awlaki lectures and a number of books and articles about AQ, other terrorist groups and jihad. Agents also recovered shooting targets labeled with the number of rounds fired and distances.