Mississippi woman to plead guilty to terrorism charge
JACKSON, Miss. — A young Mississippi woman plans to plead guilty to a terrorism charge Tuesday, months after authorities say she and her fiance tried to go to Syria to join the Islamic State group.
Court papers show 20-year-old Jaelyn Young, originally from Vicksburg, will plead guilty in Aberdeen federal court to conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Young faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and lifetime probation.
Lawyers for Young did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
Her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty March 11 to a similar charge and awaits sentencing. The pair at one point planned to claim they were going on their honeymoon while traveling to Syria.
The couple was arrested Aug. 8 before boarding a flight from Columbus, Mississippi, with tickets for Istanbul. Authorities say they contacted undercover federal agents last year, seeking online help in traveling to Syria. Both are jailed in Oxford.
Young, a sophomore chemistry major at Mississippi State University at the time of her arrest, is the daughter of a school administrator and a police officer who served in the Navy reserve. She was a former honor student, cheerleader and homecoming maid at Vicksburg’s Warren Central High School.
Dakhlalla grew up as the youngest of three sons of a prominent figure in Starkville’s Muslim community. He is a 2011 psychology graduate of Mississippi State who and was preparing to start graduate school at the university.
Prosecutors have portrayed Young as the leader of the plot. They said that by the time Young began dating Dakhlalla in November 2014, she was already interested in converting to Islam. She announced her conversion in March and began wearing a burqa, a garment worn by some Muslim women to cover their face and body.
“After her conversion, Young distanced herself from family and friends and felt spending time with non-Muslims would be a bad influence,” prosecutors wrote in a statement of facts regarding Dakhlalla’s plea.
The statement said Young increasingly complained about the treatment of Muslims in the United States and United Kingdom. Prosecutors said that, after watching pro-Islamic State group videos, she began to view the fighters as liberators. They said Young approvingly cited a video of a man accused of being gay being thrown off a roof to his death by militants and also expressed approval of the shooting of five members of the military in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“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,” prosecutors wrote.
The court papers reiterated earlier government claims that Young and then Dakhlalla contacted undercover FBI employees online stating they wanted help to travel to Islamic State group territory.
The papers confirm that both Young and Dakhlalla left farewell letters “that explained they would never be back, with Young acknowledging her role as the planner of the expedition and that Dakhlalla was going as her companion of his own free will.”