HAMMOND — An Elkhart, Indiana woman who gained national attention as the widow of an ISIS sniper pleaded guilty Monday afternoon to a reduced terrorism charge.
Samantha “Sally” Elhassani, 33, of Elkhart, Indiana, gave up her right to a jury trial in return for the promise of a more lenient sentence under the terms of a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“Samantha Elhassani pled guilty to providing financial support to ISIS, a terrorist organization that has committed acts of violence against Americans," U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II said in a statement released on Monday. "She traveled with her husband and brother-in-law to Syria, both of whom became ISIS fighters, putting the lives of her children at risk.
“Today’s guilty plea to federal terrorism charges reflects the seriousness of her criminal conduct. My office is committed to prosecuting those who provide support to terrorist organizations."
Elhassani's plea agreement states in late 2014, her husband and his brother, identified in court records as Moussa and Abdelhadi, wanted to travel to Syria and join ISIS, a foreign terrorist group battling American allies in the Middle East.
She made three trips abroad between November 2014 and April 2015 to Hong Kong, carrying more than $30,000 in cash and gold from the United States, concealing the valuables and her mission from authorities.
The U.S. Attorney is agreeing to a reduction of her sentence, which is yet to be calculated.
This comes six weeks before her scheduled jury trial on more serious conspiracy counts that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Elhassani had showcased her defense to the national media in a series of interviews, saying she was bullied by an abusive husband, was treated like an American spy by ISIS and helped victims of ISIS brutality escape.
Elhassani told PBS' "Frontline" and the BBC last year her husband, Moussa Elhassani, a Moroccan national, first promised their travels abroad would be a vacation.
But once they got to the Middle East, she said he confronted her with the choice of following into Syria or watch him leave with her daughter, possibly never to see either again.
He became a sniper for militant group that gained control of large arts of Syria and Iraq five years ago.
U.S.-backed forces in Syria and Iraq eventually recovered all of the ISIS-held territories. Her husband died in the conflict and American allies captured her. The government charged her on her return to Northern Indiana last year.