Vicksburg native faces potential jail time for attempting to join terrorist organization

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ABERDEEN, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has scheduled sentencing next month for a Mississippi couple who pleaded guilty to planning to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State group.

Online court records show that sentencing is Aug. 11 for Jaelyn Young, who left her parents a note saying she had planned it all. Judge Sharion Aycock has scheduled sentencing Aug. 24 for Young’s fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla.

Authorities say undercover agents got in touch with the couple after they sought online help traveling to Syria.

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Young was 20-years-old and Dakhlalla was 22-years-old when they were arrested Aug. 8, 2015, in Columbus, Mississippi, where they were about to board a flight to Istanbul, with plans to go from there to Syria.

Each pleaded guilty in March to one count of aiding a terrorist organization. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and lifetime on supervised release, which could mean a return to prison if they violate any of its terms.

Both plea agreements state that prosecutors did not promise a specific sentence.

Young, the daughter of a school administrator and a police officer who served in the Navy reserve, was an honor student, cheerleader and homecoming maid at Vicksburg’s Warren Central High School.

Prosecutors have said Young converted to Islam while studying chemistry at Mississippi State University, led toward the Islamic State group in part by online videos. Like Young herself, prosecutors have said she’s the one who prodded Dakhlalla into the plan to join the terrorists.

In online conversations with the agents, prosecutors said, Young noted her math and chemistry skills and said she and Dakhlalla would like to be medics treating the wounded.

At one time, Young said she planned to camouflage her journey as a honeymoon, but later discarded the plan.

Dakhlalla is a 2011 psychology graduate of Mississippi State who grew up in Starkville, a son of a prominent figure in the college town’s Muslim community.

He is the youngest of three sons and was preparing to start graduate school.