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American Who Tried to Join ISIS Pleads Guilty to Terrorism Charges

Donald Ray Morgan of North Carolina acknowledged in interview with NBC News before his arrest that he wanted to join the terror group in Syria.

A North Carolina man who was featured in a Nightly News story last month about foreign fighters attempting to join the fighting in Syria pleaded guilty on Thursday to terrorism charges.

Donald Ray Morgan pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

Morgan, 44, was initially held on the gun charge after his arrest at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Aug. 2, shortly after he arrived on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany. The terrorism charge was added Thursday, and he pleaded guilty to both charges.

Morgan admitted that he tried, unsuccessfully, to travel from Lebanon to Syria to join ISIS. He also admitted posting pro-jihadist messages on social media and, as prosecutors put it, conducting an interview with an freelance journalist "to express his support for ISIL/ISIS and violent terrorist activities."

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That exclusive interview was conducted for NBC News and featured in an exclusive Nightly News report by NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel about people in the US who seek to go to Syria to join ISIS and other terror groups.

Sentencing was scheduled for Feb. 18, 2015.


-- Pete Williams