In her farewell letter as she was leaving to join the Islamic State group, Jaelyn Young told her family she was guilty.
“I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure,” prosecutors say she wrote last August. “I am guilty of what you soon will find out.”
Tuesday, she admitted the same to a federal judge in Aberdeen, Mississippi, pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
US District Judge Sharion Aycock will sentence the 20-year-old Young at a later date. The former Mississippi State University student faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and lifetime probation.
Her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty March 11 to a similar charge and also awaits sentencing.
The daughter of a school administrator and a police officer who served in the Navy Reserve, Young is a former 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. Prosecutors have said, as has she, that she’s the one who prodded Dakhlalla into the plan to join the terrorists.
The couple was arrested Aug. 8 before boarding a flight from Columbus, Mississippi, with tickets for Istanbul purchased using her mother’s credit card without her mother’s permission. Authorities say the couple contacted undercover federal agents in May, seeking online help in traveling to Syria. Both are jailed in Oxford.
Court papers say Young announced her conversion in March 2015 and began wearing a burqa, a garment worn by some Muslim women to cover their face and body.