Abdin (copy) (copy) (copy)

Zakaryia Abdin of Ladson. File/Cannon Detention Center/Provided 

A South Carolina man will serve the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for attempting to join the Islamic State terror group, a federal judge in Charleston ruled Monday.

Prior to the sentence being issued, Zakaryia Abdel Abdin apologized to his mother and sister, who were present in the courtroom.

"Mom, I'm sorry for letting you down," he said. "It's not your fault. I love you."

Abdin, of Ladson, had aspired to fight alongside IS but was arrested by federal agents in March 2017 attempting to leave the country by way of the Charleston International Airport. He was 18 at the time.

He pleaded guilty in August to one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

During Monday's sentencing, which was initially scheduled for January but was postponed because of delays caused by the federal government shutdown, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel said he believed Abdin could reform his life and asked federal prosecutors to move him to a facility as close to home as possible. 

"I haven't given up hope on him," Gergel said. "Every time I sentence someone to prison I know I'm sentencing the family to prison." 

Federal prosecutor Nathan Williams said Abdin was a "homegrown violent extremist who was diffused" by the FBI.  

Abdin had told undercover federal agents in numerous conversations on social media that he considered planning an attack similar to the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, in which a man who claimed support for IS killed 49 people in Orlando, Fla.

 Abdin also said he wanted to go to Syria to fight Americans overseas.

Though he decided against launching an attack, Abdin made plans to fight with the Islamic State's ranks. He started buying guns and training with firearms at Charleston-area shooting ranges, according to court documents. 

Abdin bought a ticket bound for Amman, Jordan, with money from the sale of an AK-47-style semi-automatic rifle he owned, prosecutors said. Federal agents stopped him from boarding an outbound flight at Charleston's airport on March 30, 2017. 

Abdin's attorney, Cody Groeber, said Monday that Abdin had felt alienated in South Carolina. 

"(He) became an outsider because he was lost in his own community," Grober said. "He was lost to America, but he doesn't have to be lost forever."

But Gergel, quoting Abdin's conversation with federal agents, said the young man was "prepared to do the fight right here" if he got caught.

Groeber argued that his client was being ostentatious, showboating for the undercover agents who were baiting him with leading questions. 

In addition to contesting the online messages, Groeber said jail phone calls between Abdin and his mother shouldn't have been relevant to the case.

Gergel said it spoke to the lack of remorse he saw in the young man. 

"Telling his mother that he isn't sad about it, but he's happy about it, that wouldn't give me much comfort," Gergel said.

Abdin was implicated in a suspected terrorist plot once before. 

In 2015, he was arrested in York County for possessing a firearm as a minor. Authorities said at the time that he planned to get more guns and target military bases. 

The FBI began monitoring Abdin after he was released on parole. Prosecutors said he began messaging IS affiliates within minutes of his parole expiring. 

Gergel said that if the maximum sentence for the crime had been life, he still would have given Abdin 20 years in prison. Gergel encouraged Abdin to spend time in prison learning skilled trades so he could enter the workforce. 

"I have no doubt that Muslims are mistreated in America," Gergel said. "But very few go down this path. This path was very different than law-abiding citizens take." 

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Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

Emily Williams is a business reporter at The Post and Courier, covering tourism and employment. She also writes the Business Headlines newsletter, which is published twice a week. Before moving to Charleston, her byline appeared in The Boston Globe.

Thomas Novelly reports on crime, growth and development as well as military issues in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Previously, he was a reporter at the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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