A former California college student was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison for trying to aid the Islamic State group. Muhanad Badawi, 25, was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervised release during a hearing in federal court in Santa Ana. He was convicted earlier this year of conspiracy to aid a foreign terrorist organization and other crimes.
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Authorities said Badawi and now-25-year-old Nader Elhuzayel concocted a scheme for Elhuzayel to fly to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State and that Badawi lent him his debit card to buy a one-way plane ticket to Israel with a six-hour layover in Turkey.
The men, who were arrested last year, shared their support for the Islamic State in conversation and on social media. In recorded conversations, the pair discussed how it would be a blessing “to die in the battlefield,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
“The significant sentence the defendant received illustrates the gravity of this crime and the threat the defendants posed to the United States,” Deirdre Fike, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in a statement.
Federal authorities had asked for the 30-year sentence for Badawi with lifetime supervised release, which is the same sentence that Elhuzayel received last month from U.S. District Judge David O. Carter.
Defense attorney Kate Corrigan, who has said Badawi never actually intended to fight for the Islamic State, had requested half the amount of prison time and 20 years of supervision.
She cited his lack of criminal history and age and said she planned to appeal the sentence.
“The real message from today’s hearing is that anyone who thinks they want to support ISIS or even dabble in its rhetoric better be ready to serve a lot of time in prison,” she wrote in an email.
Badawi was born in Sudan but moved to the United States as a child and lived in Orange County, where he studied engineering, Corrigan said.
While in custody, he stopped eating and dropped from 140 to 109 pounds before a judge ordered him force-fed last December.