JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A young Mississippi couple accused of attempting to join the Islamic State are scheduled for trial Oct. 26 after a grand jury indicted them on charges that they tried to aid the terrorist organization.
U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander set the trial date Tuesday following the Aug. 26 indictment of 20-year-old Jaelyn Delshaun Young and 22-year-old Muhammad “Mo” Dakhlalla.
Each is charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, as well as one count of attempting to provide material support, facing up to 20 years in prison, as well as lifetime probation.
Court records show both waived a court appearance on the indictment and pleaded not guilty.
Their lawyers did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment late Tuesday. In a letter filed Tuesday mainly requesting copies of evidence, Dakhlalla’s attorney Greg Park also requested the “opportunity to possibly engage in plea negotiations at the appropriate time.”
The pair were arrested at a Mississippi airport Aug. 8 just before boarding a flight with tickets bound for Istanbul. Authorities said the two began seeking online help in traveling to Syria as early as May, not realizing they were actually chatting with undercover federal agents.
Young and Dakhlalla had undergone a nikkah, or Islamic marriage ceremony, and planned to pose as honeymooners on their trip, authorities say.
Dakhlalla is a 2011 psychology graduate of Mississippi State University who grew up in Starkville, a son of a prominent figure in the college town’s Muslim community and a caterer. Young was a sophomore chemistry major from Vicksburg, the daughter of school administrator and a police officer who has served in the Navy reserve.
Despite those connections, federal authorities say Young expressed happiness online after Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed four Marines and a sailor at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, military recruiting facility in July.
An FBI agent alleges that Young had volunteered to be a medic for the Islamic State, while Dakhlalla had volunteered to produce Internet media for the group or even to serve as a fighter.
Authorities say that both confessed their plans to FBI agents after their arrest at Golden Triangle Regional Airport near Columbus and that both left behind letters to their families admitting what they were doing.
The two are being held without bail in the Lafayette County jail. Federal prosecutors argued against their release, and Alexander sided with them. The judge said that even under tight supervision at home, she feared the two would seek to commit terrorist acts.