The sentence should include four years without any access to the Koran, other Muslims or any Islamic material, all of which will only bolster her desire to wage jihad. via Arvada teen jihadist wannabe sentenced to four years in prison – The Denver Post.
A 19-year-old Arvada woman who was arrested while headed to the Middle East on a terror mission was sentenced on Friday to four years in prison.
“That woman is in need of psychiatric help,” U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore said before sentencing Shannon Conley. “She’s a bit of a mess.”
Moore also ordered Conley to spend three years under supervision and 100 hours of community service.
Conley told the judge she never intended to hurt anyone.
“Even though I supported a jihad, it was never to hurt anyone,” she said in a written statement interrupted by sobs. “It was always in the defense of Muslims. … I do not believe I am a threat to society and I hope you give me a chance to prove it.”
Conley had pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda. She was arrested last spring at Denver International Airport as she was about to embark on a potentially deadly quest to Syria.
Prosecutor Gregory Holloway said Conley continues to demonstrate her defiance in jail with guards. He also said the FBI repeatedly warned her that she was breaking the law, but she went ahead and planned to go to Syria to join a jihad instead.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh wrote in a statement that Conley was lucky she was arrested.
“Had she succeeded in her plan to get to Syria, she would likely have been brutalized, killed or sent back to the United States to commit other crimes,” Walsh said. “Today’s sentence underscores the seriousness of defendant’s conduct, but pales in comparison to the penalty she would have paid had she not been stopped.”
During the sentencing hearing, Moore engaged in heated arguments with Holloway and defense attorney Robert Pepin at times about the facts in the case, including Conley’s mental state.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like she gets it,” the judge said.
Conley arrived in court wearing a head scarf and a gray, striped prison jumpsuit. U.S. Marshals used bomb-sniffing dogs to sweep the courthouse before her sentencing.
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to file additional charges, and she promised to divulge information about co-conspirators and possibly testify in court.
During a search of Conley’s Arvada home, agents discovered videos of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Islamic terrorist, and videos by other jihadists, said Jeffrey Dorschner, Walsh’s spokesman.
Although Conley is “pathologically naive,” did not have a criminal record and is a young woman, Holloway pointed out that an accomplice in the Paris terrorist attack was also a young woman who didn’t have a criminal record.
“Now current events demonstrate why a response is absolutely necessary,” Holloway said.
Authorities are still trying to find 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, the former wife of deceased terrorist Amedy Coulibaly for her role in the murder of 17 in or near the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this month.
Conley first came to the attention of the FBI in the fall of 2013 when she began stalking the Faith Bible Chapel of Arvada. Her arrest came April 8 as she tried to board a plane en route to Turkey.
Faith Bible’s Senior Pastor George Morrison has said that although he believed Conley was a “terrorist wannabe,” he had to take her sketching of interior rooms of the church seriously, especially because a 2007 murder spree had directly affected the church.
In early December 2007, a shooter gunned down two people at Youth With a Mission, a missionary training center on the Faith Bible campus. The same man later killed two teenage sisters during a shootout at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
Conley, who attended Ralston Valley and Arvada West high schools, had received military training in a Texas camp run by the U.S. Army Explorers. She developed a close relationship with an avowed terrorist who invited her to join the jihad.
At her sentencing she said she wanted to marry Yousr Mouelhi, whom she met online. She had previously told an FBI agent that she wished to fight a guerilla war in the Middle East or work as a nurse.
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