Would-be American jihadi pleads not guilty to weapons charge that foiled plans to join ISIS

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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.

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Would-be American jihadi pleads not guilty to weapons charge that foiled plans to join ISIS
Donald Morgan pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal gun possession charge. (Photo provided by WBTV)
The would-be terrorist is shown here in a 1996 mugshot from when he was arrested for firing a gun into a crowded bar. (WBTV)
Morgan grew up in a Catholic household in North Carolina. He is shown here as a Little Leaguer.
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"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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Would-be American jihadi pleads not guilty to weapons charge that foiled plans to join ISIS
Assad is dropping barrel bombs on Syrian civilians. US drops anti-ISIS leaflets. http://t.co/dNoRtD8kzo http://t.co/evtxcrZxJC
Syrian boys sift through the rubble of a house in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Destroyed building are seen around a sign that reads, ''Kobane'' in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 24, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26, by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian schoolchildren play at recess time outside their school in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 25, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Toys and flowers are laid on gravestones in a cemetery for Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Hezbollah fighters stand next to the coffin of Shiite militant Ali al-hadi Wahbi, killed in fighting with the Islamic State group (IS) in Syria, during his funeral ceremony on March 27, 2015 in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Turkish police intervene protesters taking streets across Turkey to hold unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: Protestors make barricades against Turkish police during unauthorized demonstrations against the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants toward central Kobani, on October 8, 2014 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (C) stands alongside outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey (R) during an Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of Panetta at Joint Base Myer-Henderson in Arlington, Virginia, February 8, 2013. Panetta will retire once his likely successor, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, is confirmed by the US Senate. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 16: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on U.S. policy towards Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 10: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a prime time address from the Cross Hall of the White House on September 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. Vowing to target the Islamic State with air strikes 'wherever they exist', Obama pledged to lead a broad coalition to fight IS and work with 'partner forces' on the ground in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images)
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Iraqi volunteer soldiers march after graduating from a training camp in the central Iraqi city of Kufa on September 1, 2014. Iraqi forces broke through to the jihadist-besieged Shiite town of Amerli the previous day which was the biggest offensive success for the Iraqi government since militants led by the Sunni Islamic State (IS) jihadist group overran large areas of five provinces in June, sweeping security forces aside. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish riot police use teargas to disperse protesters on October 8, 2014 in Ankara during a demonstration against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 08: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, Turkey, shows that local residents watch smoke rising from the Syrian border town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) following the US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Protesters demonstrate on October 8, 2014 in Ankara against attacks launched by Islamic State (IS) group, targeting the Syrian city Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, and lack of government action. While air strikes by a US-led coalition fighting IS have helped push back the jihadists, pressure is mounting for more international action to save the town. Some 200,000 mainly Kurdish refugees have fled the IS advance into the area, and Ankara in particular has come under pressure to act, although its response has been complicated by concerns over emboldening Kurdish separatists, who have waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey over the past decades. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 8: A photograph taken from Suruc district of Sanliurfa, southeastern province of Turkey, shows that smoke rises during the clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish armed troops in Kobane (Ayn al-arab) city of Syria, on October 8, 2014. (Photo by Emin Menguarslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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