Shannon Maureen Conley, the Colorado teenager who was arrested after openly telling FBI agents that she intended to fight with jihadists in Syria and attack American targets, pled guilty to terrorism charges Wednesday in federal court.
Conley was arrested in April at Denver International Airport, where she attempted to board a plane on the first leg of her journey to Syria, where she planned to meet and marry a Tunisian man she met online.
Conley first came to the attention of the FBI in 2013, after pastors at Faith Bible Chapel became suspicious of her actions. She was reportedly taking notes and drawing maps of the campus, where a shooting in 2007 by a wannabe minister left two dead.
Federal agents contacted her on several occasions and Conley made no effort to hide her intentions. She told them “legitimate targets of attack” included U.S. military bases and government installations.
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“To Conley, it is okay to harm innocents if they are part of a target,” the criminal complaint based on her conversations with FBI agents reads. “She felt that if wives, children, and chaplains visiting a military base are killed during an attack, it is acceptable because they should not have been at a legitimate target. She repeatedly referred to US military bases as ‘targets.’”
Conley, who is 19, was also a member of the U.S. Army Explorers and she told the agents she joined the group to learn military tactics and how to use U.S. military weapons, so she could then train jihadists overseas.
According to the criminal complaint, Conley’s parents weren’t aware that their daughter, who converted to Islam two years ago, had become radicalized in her beliefs.
The same FBI agents met with Conley several times and even when they overtly tried to dissuade her from wanting to wage jihad — and warned her that she could be arrested — she insisted on following through with her plans.
“Conley stated that if everything falls into place, she may be ready to wage Jihad in a year,” the complaint reads. “Conley was reminded, and acknowledged, that she had made statements to overt law enforcement about waging Jihad against the U.S. Conley was further advised, and acknowledged, that what she wanted to do is illegal. When asked if she still wanted to carry out the plans, knowing they are illegal, Conley said that she does.”
In pleading guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, Conley faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore ordered Conley to undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing on Jan. 23, according to the LA Times.
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