Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19-year-old nurse’s aide from Colorado who wanted to join the terrorist group ISIS, appeared in a hijab and civilian clothes for her sentencing hearing Friday. Judge Raymond Moore handed down a four-year sentence but announced from the bench that she needs psychiatric help. “I’m not saying that her decisions were all a product of mental illness … But she’s a bit of a mess,” said the judge. “She has no history in the criminal justice system. She is very young … Teenagers make dumb decisions a lot.”
Moore matched the sentence prosecutors requested for Conley, who says she now wants to be known as Amatullah, or servant of Allah, and also required three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. But at her hearing, Conley also said that imprisonment has given her a chance to gain a deeper knowledge of Islam — and to see that she was wrong about ISIS. “Since my incarceration I have had a chance to read the entire Quran,” she said, adding that its beliefs were misrepresented by ISIS. “Even though I was committed to the idea of jihad, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. It was all about defending Muslims.”
The teenager converted to Islam and was radicalized by her online interactions with ISIS members in Syria. By the time she was apprehended while trying to board a Turkey-bound plane at the Denver airport in April, she had been on the FBI’s radar for months. Agents had even met with her in person to try to dissuade her, but still believed she was going to make it to the Caliphate and marry her Tunisian e-beau.
Conley pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in September. Under the terms of her plea agreement, she will help the FBI track down others with similar intentions and faced a penalty of up to five years in prison and as much as a $250,000 fine.