Convicted ISIS recruit headed back to custody

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Convicted ISIS recruit headed back to custody
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Mohammed Hamzah Khan was arrested in 2014 boarding a plane at O'Hare-headed to Syria to join ISIS.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A southwest suburban man who attempted to join ISIS as a teenager, will be returning to a federal halfway house for violating his court supervised release by going on dating websites.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan was arrested At O'Hare Airport in October of 2014. Khan was 19 at the time and had his younger sister in tow as they were trying to get to Syria.

He was arrested and charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and he later pleaded guilty. The girl was a minor and returned to her parents.

Khan served about 3 1/2 years in jail before being released to a halfway house last year and was then authorized to move back with his parents in Bolingbrook and enroll in college.

When probation officers checked up on Khan at his family's home in March they found that he had failed to abide by court ordered restrictions and monitoring of electronic devices and online accounts.

Prosecutors asked Judge John Tharp to send Khan back to prison for 60 days because of "his inexplicable poor judgment." In court on Wednesday it was revealed that the Bolingbrook man had been on several dating websites, a violation of his supervision that barred such contact. Assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Hiller called out the "disrespect Mr. Khan has shown the court."

Instead of a return to prison, Judge Tharp agreed to 12 weeks at a Chicago halfway house so that Khan could continue to attend summer classes at College of DuPage where he has earned a 4.0 GPA and academic honors.

In court, Khan's attorney Thomas Durkin said the young man's use of dating apps Hinge, Bumble and Tinder "was incredibly stupid and he admits that." Durkin said when Khan got out of prison he looked like "Jihadi Joe" and had a tough guy attitude but that has all gone away since he began college courses.

In a written statement to the court, Khan was apologetic for his misdeeds-including a "black flag of ISIS" that was found during the search by federal agents on March 20. The flag was found with some Arabic writing according to Khan.

However, prosecutors didn't even mention the ISIS flag in their request for a return to prison. Khan's attorney said on Wednesday that authorities had no concerns about the flag, which had actually been in the home for several years and was missed by the FBI in its initial search.

According to the FBI, when Khan was arrested in 2014 he expressed dissatisfaction that his taxes were being "used to kill his Muslim brothers and sisters." Federal agents said that Khan told them at the time he was among "the lions of war."

Regardless of Khan's missteps, Judge Tharp said he sees the glass half full on this case because of the school success.

"I'm going to chalk this up to youth and continued immaturity," Tharp told Khan. He also told him, "This will be the last major break you receive from this court."