Former ISIS Recruit Back in Chicago Court

A Bolingbrook man who once tried to join the Islamic State is headed to a Chicago halfway house after violating the terms of his release.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan had already served 3 years in prison, after admitting he tried to leave Chicago for Syria with two siblings. When he was released from custody, he was under strict orders to have no unmonitored online communications.

But the FBI discovered he was doing just that, and prosecutors asked that he be returned to federal custody for at least 60 days.

“Khan continues his inexplicable poor judgment,” they wrote, “but he does offer some hope for the future.” Even assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Hiller conceded Khan was carrying a perfect 4.0 GPA in college.

“Remarkably, he has managed to both flout and take advantage of the opportunity this Court gave him,” Hiller said.

In court Thursday, defense attorney Thomas Durkin said a forensic analysis of Khan’s online communications showed nothing nefarious was afoot.

“It was incredibly stupid---he admits that---but it was not what we feared,” Durkin said. “In many ways he continues to be a remarkable story.”

Judge John Tharp reacted with caution---but he agreed to give Khan still another chance.

“It’s a little like saying the Titanic had a nice sail except for one iceberg,” he said. “Even one iceberg can sink the ship.”

Looking directly at Khan, the judge said he hoped that in 20 years, he would appreciate the breaks he had received.

“I’m going to chalk this up to continued youth and immaturity---you don’t have a lot of goodwill stored up in the bank here,” he said. “This is strike two. Strike three is going to be a much shorter conversation.”

Still, the judge said “I think the glass is half full,” and declared that he was not ready to write Khan off. He ordered him to serve 12 weeks in a halfway house, along with a new term of community service.

After court, Durkin said his client had been engaged primarily in contact with online dating sites.

“If the public is worried only about Hamzah Khan, then we should all sleep well,” he said. “If you were a parent and you had a kid that had screwed up big time and hoped something could happen for the good, what’s happened for him is exactly wht happened.”

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