Would-be American jihadi pleads not guilty to weapons charge that foiled plans to join ISIS
By RYAN GORMAN
The American man with designs on joining ISIS has pleaded not guilty to the weapons possession charge that foiled his plans.
Donald Morgan, 44, and from North Carolina, traveled halfway across the world to find the terror group only to be taken into custody last month at JFK Airport on the charge when he tried to come home, according to reports.
A convicted felon after he fired a gun into a crowded bar, Morgan was prohibited from owning firearms. Federal officials contend he was trying to sell a rifle online, according to a previous report in the New York Daily News.
He pleaded not guilty Thursday in a federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, WBTV first reported. The would-be jihadi is due back in court next month.
Morgan previously spoke to NBC News from a hotel room in Beirut, Lebanon. He expressed fears of being arrested upon returning home, but suspected he would be charged with being a terrorist.
"I think [if I go back to the US] there's a strong possibility that they'll charge me with supporting terrorist organizations and with supporting terrorist activities," Morgan told the network.
It is not clear why he returned to the U.S. on August 2, only days after his NBC interview, but Morgan explained to the network that he did see himself as a terrorist.
"I would not classify myself as a radical, but by western definition I would be classified as a radical," he said. "I just consider myself to be a practicing Muslim."
But Morgan, under the Twitter name Abu Omar al-Amreeki, swore his allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to an al-Arabiya report.
He had spent eight months in Lebanon, according to the Daily News.
The Catholic-raised Morgan wanted to join the Islamic State to help spread the Muslim faith, and because he agrees with the Islamic State's interpretation of Sharia law, he insisted.
"My reason for the support of ISIS is because they've proven time and time again to put Islamic law as the priority and the establishment of an Islamic state as the goal."
He was drawn to the Islamic faith after failed attempts at careers in both the U.S. military and law enforcement.
"My entire life growing up was surrounded by the idea that I would be 82nd Airborne, I would be Special Forces, I would serve dutifully – duty, honor and country," Morgan told NBC.
He flunked bootcamp and found himself in a local sheriff's office. That job lasted 18-months, and a spokesperson declined to say why he was terminated.
Soon his marriage also ended in divorce. Morgan reached a breaking point.
"It was months and months and months of asking Allah to guide me or to give me the answers I needed," he said.
Those answers led him to ISIS – a group that has claimed responsibility for the beheading of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and threatened the life of a Briton.
Then he wound up in a federal courtroom where a judge said his tweets "clearly implied to me that he is trying to go to Syria or Iraq as the next step and trying to be actively engaged," according to the Daily News.
He is now cooling his heels in federal custody.
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