Philadelphia woman who planned to join ISIS gets 8 years in jail

A Philadelphia mother who investigators say planned to abandon her two children and travel to Syria to join an ISIS fighter she met online was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday.

Authorities said Keonna Thomas, 33, used the online moniker "Young Lioness" to spread the terror group's message and violent propaganda over the Internet.

"I'm not a evil or malicious person," Thomas, 33, said before she was sentenced. "I'm just someone who, I guess, at one point, was impressionable."

Thomas was arrested in 2015 and pleaded guilty last year to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group.

Prosecutors compiled Thomas' social media postings and her correspondence with the ISIS fighter, a radical Islamic cleric and a Somalia-based jihadi fighter to establish evidence of her willingness to support and join the terrorist organization.

In 2015, she said it "would be amazing" to participate in a martyrdom operation around the same time she bought an electronic visa and conducted online research regarding indirect routes into Turkey, a frequented point of entry for people seeking to slip into Syria and join ISIS , according to an affidavit that cited an ISIS manual.

Thomas also sought to raise money for the terrorist organization, re-posting a statement from a Twitter user that read, "Did you know... For as little as $100 you can provide a #Mujahid with his basic necessities for 1 month?" A mujahid is person who engages in jihad.

But as prosecutors lined up examples of her descent into racialization, Thomas' attorneys depicted her as woman with a troubled soul. They said she fell prey to promises of an Islamic utopia in Syria that could give her the kind of pious life she couldn't get in the local Muslim community.

"She lost her way, in a very, very real way," her attorney, Kathleen Gaughan, said Wednesday.

Thomas spent countless hours between 2013 and 2015 absorbing ISIS propaganda and became enthralled with the idea of marrying a faithful Muslim man, according to her attorneys. And when she found what she was looking for through her communications with the ISIS member, Thomas made arrangements to join him in the Middle East.

"Trust me u haven't seens anything yet," the ISIS member wrote to her in December 2014 after she congratulated him for starting to train with the terrorist group in Raqqa, Syria, according to an affidavit. "U need to be here to see it."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.