When federal agents arrested Joshua Van Haften at O'Hare in April 2015, he was an ISIS reject. Van Haften had flown to the Syrian border to try to join the Islamic State terrorist organization, but was apparently swindled by middle-men who only wanted his money.
They dumped him on a dusty road, but his intentions were a federal crime that he admitted committing.
Wisconsin man arrested at O'Hare on terror charges; Joshua Van Haften accused of trying to join ISIS
This was the Promised Land for Van Haften according to federal prosecutors. They said the fact that he never got there doesn't let him off the hook.
On Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Madison, he pleaded guilty to attempting to give material support to a terrorist group.
The Wisconsin native told the judge, "Your honor, I am a Muslim and I wanted to be a part of the caliphate that is occurring or will be occurring in the Sham, the Levant and Syria."
"It's a priority of our national security division to stop people from committing acts of terror, from supporting terror and going overseas to join terrorist organizations. So, the more cases you can bring, the more people you can convict the more pleas you can have entered, the better off you are in serving that goal," Gil Soffer, ABC's 7 legal analyst and former federal fed prosecutor said.
According to court records, Van Haften intended to travel into Iraq or Syria to join ISIS and was angry that he never made it, having to return to O'Hare Airport where federal agents were on hand to arrest him.
Mugshots of Van Haften have morphed from clean cut to unshorn and he isn't just a budding terrorist. He is a convicted child sex offender and a teenage stalker who at age 17 pointed a gun at a man dating his ex-girlfriend.
Despite being raised in rural Wisconsin, the ISIS wannabe wrote on Facebook prior to his journey to the Middle East: "My password has always been 'death to America's new world order.'"
"In cases where it's just a lone wolf, first of all, you stop that lone wolf from acting but you also deter others who might have a similar bent from doing the same thing. There's value in that," Soffer said.
Since Van Haften's arrest his psychological state has been questioned. But government doctors said he was competent and Van Haften himself told the judge that he was not mentally ill.
He is to be sentenced in February. He is looking at up to 15 years.