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Former Mississippi cheerleader sentenced to 12 years behind bars for trying to join ISIS

August 12, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Former Mississippi cheerleader sentenced to 12 years behind bars for trying to join ISIS

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A Mississippi woman, who once attempted to conceal a planned trip to Syria to join ISIS as her honeymoon, was convicted on terrorism charges on Thursday and has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Jaelyn Young sobbed as she was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock. Back in March, she pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization and was facing up to 20 years behind bars, according to the New York Post

Her parents begged the judge for leniency, while Young explained that she was ashamed of her behavior.

The woman’s fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, also pleaded guilty back on March 11th to a similar charge and is scheduled for sentencing on August 24th, according to the New York Post. Prosecutors allege that Young, who had converted to Islam while in college at Mississippi State University, had convinced Dakhlalla to take part in the scheme.

The couple was arrested back in 2015 just before boarding a flight headed to Istanbul.

In a letter to her family, Young wrote: “I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure … I am guilty of what you soon will find out.”

Young and Dakhlalla were among many apprehended around the U.S. for Islamic State sympathies. Authorities believe that they had formulated extremist views in support of the Islamic State partly by watching online videos and were arrested after their posts on social media drew in the attention of the FBI.

The woman, who is the daughter of a police officer and school administrator, is a former cheerleader, honor student, and homecoming maid at her high school.

Law enforcement officials announced said the two had unknowingly contacted undercover federal agents in May, seeking online assistance in traveling to Syria. Since their arrests, both individuals have remained in custody.

Court documents indicate that Young declared that she was converting to the religion in March 2015 and began dressing in a burqa to cover her body and face. Prosecutors wrote, “After her conversion, Young distanced herself from family and friends and felt spending time with non-Muslims would be a bad influence.”

A court statement said Young frequently complained about the treatment of Muslims in the United States and the United Kingdom. Prosecutors said that after seeing videos, including Islamic State propaganda from a British Muslim preacher who is facing conviction for supporting the organization, she started to see the fighters as liberators.

“Young continually asked Dakhlalla when they were going to join (the Islamic State group) and began to express hatred for the US government and expressed support for the implementation of Sharia law in the United States,” prosecutors added in a court statement.

Young informed undercover agents that she and Dakhlalla would like to become medics. Dakhlalla told investigators that he was good with computers and media and wanted to help in the Islamic State’s fight. Court papers also allege that Dakhlalla said that he was determined to become a fighter and learn “what it really means to have that heart in battle.”

In one instance, Young admitted that she intended to disguise the couple’s journey as a honeymoon but later abandoned that idea.

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