Florida man sentenced to 20 years for seeking to join al Qaeda group

Updated: 2015-01-15 10:27


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A Florida man was sentenced to two decades in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to train for an Islamic holy war or jihad and traveling to the Middle East intending to fight with an al Qaeda-affiliated group, according to court records.

Shelton Thomas Bell, 21, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

In a plea agreement announced in Jacksonville, he admitted to recruiting a juvenile to join a jihad. In September 2012, the two flew from Jacksonville to the Middle East, planning to go to Yemen to join the Ansar al-Sharia group.

"We must be vigilant in investigating and prosecuting United States citizens who seek to travel overseas to assist terrorists," US Attorney A. Lee Bentley for the Middle District of Florida said in a statement.

Following his release, Bell faces a lifetime of supervision.

"The sentence imposed was longer than I had hoped for," said attorney Lisa Call, an assistant federal public defender, who added she did not know whether there would be an appeal.