Madison native Joshua Van Haften pleaded guilty to trying to join the Islamic State Thursday.
Van Haften was arrested in Turkey May 2015 and eventually deported and arrested in Chicago. Adam Stevenson, University of Wisconsin associate law professor, said Van Haften’s guilty plea means that he accepted allegations that he was trying to join ISIS.
Van Haften maintained a strong online connection with reported ISIS members. The 34-year-old traveled to Turkey, which is typically considered the entry point for people involved with ISIS, to meet a reported ISIS contact, Stevenson said. Van Haften, however, was unsuccessful and arrested.
Stevenson said the next stage in Van Haften’s case would be to estimate his sentence. In order to come up with a sentence, the federal court must further investigate the defendant and allows both sides to give their positions.
Every case follows the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which recommend a range for the sentence based on a point system. The defendant and the crime they committed will be assigned points based on different aspects of the case, Stevenson said.
Van Haften’s case is based on him providing material support to a terrorist organization. Stevenson said he estimates Van Haften’s sentencing range to start with approximately five years. According to the guidelines, this can go up to 15 years.
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Van Haften’s case will also be evaluated on the basis of other factors like his past criminal record. Stevenson said Van Haften has at least one prior conviction on his record, which could affect his case.
Van Haften will be sentenced in February 2017.