Virginia woman pleads guilty in terror support case

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2015 4:18 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia woman pleaded guilty Monday to lying to federal investigators about supporting the Islamic State militant group.

Heather Elizabeth Coffman, 29, faces up to eight years in prison when she is sentenced May 11. She has been in jail since her arrest in November.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and leg shackles, the soft-spoken Coffman offered brief answers to questions from Judge John A. Gibney but said nothing else. Her parents watched from the front row of the galley and declined to answer reporters' questions as they left the courthouse after the 35-minute hearing.

An affidavit filed by an FBI agent said Coffman promoted the extremist organization on several Facebook accounts she maintained under various names. Those posts prompted a sting by the agent, who posed as an Islamic State sympathizer.

The agent wrote that Coffman talked about making arrangements for a man she identified as her husband to train and fight with the Islamic State in Syria. Coffman said the man, who is not named in court papers, backed out when the couple split up.

Coffman offered to use her contacts with the group to make similar arrangements for the FBI agent and a fictitious friend, the affidavit said. The agent told Coffman that his friend wanted to fight with the terrorist group and become a "shaheed," or martyr.

After several meetings between the agent and Coffman, two other FBI agents interviewed the woman at her workplace. She denied supporting any terrorist groups, the affidavit said.

The undercover agent wrote that Coffman described her job and education as "jihad for Allah's sake" on Facebook, and posted photos of the Islamic State flag and men holding AK-47s. One Facebook friend asked why she posted such pictures and she replied, "I love ISIS!"

According to the affidavit, she also said she got her sister interested in the Islamic State and "my dad is a little angry because I got her into all this jihad stuff."