An ex-National Guardsman who attempted to join the Islamic State in Syria last summer was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison Wednesday.
44-year-old Donald Morgan flew to Beirut, then Istanbul, and planned to cross into ISIS territory inside Syria. His plan was derailed when Turkish authorities sent him back to Lebanon.
Interviewed by NBC News while still in Beirut, Morgan said he wanted to join ISIS because “someone has to defend Islam and someone has to defend the innocent Muslims.”
After running out of money, Morgan returned to the United States. He was arrested upon arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists and felony possession of a firearm.
Morgan had worked as a sheriff’s deputy in his native North Carolina and was a competitive bodybuilder. He converted to Islam and became radicalized two years ago, taking to Twitter under a fake Arabic name and stating his allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and told “brothers” in Iraq he was coming to join them.
Speaking to NBC, Morgan said the “push” to join the Islamic State “came from being mistreated by the people around me who didn’t share the views I had.”