SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A California man who aspired to join the Islamic State group in Syria and lied to get a replacement American passport to head overseas could face two decades in prison Monday when he is set to be sentenced.
Federal prosecutors are seeking a 20-year prison term for Adam Dandach, who pleaded guilty last year to attempting to provide material support to a terror group and lying on his passport application.
The case is one in a series involving young men in states ranging from California to Georgia who have been charged with trying to assist Islamic State and other terrorist groups.
Prosecutors say a substantial sentence for the 22-year-old Dandach could deter him and others from supporting terrorists.
The U.S. “faces significant threat from terrorists’ acts planned or committed by homegrown violent extremists like (the) defendant who become radicalized online and seek to engage in terror and support groups like ISIL,” federal prosecutors wrote in court filings.
Dandach, an Orange County native, praised terrorists and promoted their lectures and videos online before planning to go to Syria, prosecutors wrote in the filings.
After his mother snatched Dandach’s passport to keep him from traveling abroad, he lied to get a replacement — saying he had accidentally tossed out his old passport — then booked a trip for July 2014.
He was stopped at John Wayne Airport by FBI agents who found his smartphone loaded with jihadi songs supporting Islamic State fighters, maps of areas the group controlled, and Twitter updates on fighting by the terrorist group.
Prosecutors say Dandach told the agents he planned to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and train with weapons to defend himself.
Dandach could face a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. While prosecutors are seeking 20 years, they say probation officials are recommending 15 years.
In court papers, defense lawyer Pal Lengyel-Leahu wrote that his client had been treated for a spate of psychological problems including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after suffering an abusive childhood.
Dandach found a purpose to his life in religion and aimed to travel to a place where people professed those beliefs, the lawyer wrote. He added that Dandach never planned any terrorist acts and that his client claimed Islamic State was not a designated terrorist group when he initially planned his trip to Syria to join a charitable aid convoy in 2013.
“It is of significant relevance that ISIS/ISIL was not engaged in the wanton killing of civilian prisoners and combatants that made extraordinary public outcry until after defendant’s arrest,” Lengyel-Leahu wrote in court papers.
Dandach is scheduled to be sentenced in Santa Ana by U.S. District Judge James V. Selna.