Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, a Mississippi honors student who pleaded guilty earlier this year to plotting to join ISIS, on Wednesday thanked the FBI for stopping him.
Dakhlalla, 23, pleaded guilty in March to providing material support to terrorism. He and his former fiancée, Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, were arrested last year before they were to have boarded a flight from Mississippi with tickets for Istanbul, Turkey.
Prosecutors said they'd planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS.
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Dakhlalla was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Miss. Young pleaded guilty later in March and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
And he thanked the FBI's undercover agents for stopping him.
"If I did go, I would be dead by now," he said.
Dakhlalla's father, Oda H. Dakhlalla, is a well-known Muslim cleric who frequently spoke at Friday prayer services at the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville.
The younger Dakhlalla — who graduated from high school with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and with honors from Mississippi State University — claimed that he'd lived a sequestered life without a television. As a result, he told the judge, he'd heard little negative about ISIS while growing up.
Now, he said, he knows the terrorist group is "sick and twisted."
Dennis Harmon, a family friend, told reporters outside the courthouse that while "we understand ISIS to be the Ku Klux Klan of somebody in Islam," Muhammad "thought that they were one step further [ahead], but he was wrong."
Alex Johnson is a senior writer for NBC News covering general news and technology and religion. He is based in Los Angeles.