“The social media machine ensnared Ms. Coffman…” No. The Islamic State ensnared Ms. Coffman. The social media machine was just its instrument. But authorities are generally not interested in looking into what really motivates such people, as it would involve considering Islamic texts and teachings.
“Henrico woman, ex-ISIS supporter, sentenced for lying to FBI,” by Frank Green, Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 11, 2015 (thanks to Pamela Geller):
A Glen Allen woman who lied to the FBI about her support for the Islamic State was sentenced Monday morning to four and a half years in prison.
Heather Elizabeth Coffman, 30, was arrested in November and with credit for time served she will spend roughly four years behind bars under the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for a term of 46 to 57 months in prison and Michael R. Gill, an assistant U.S. attorney, sought the stiffest punishment called for.
“At the time of her arrest she was very dangerous,” argued Gill. Among other things, Coffman admitted to using social media to trying to help get a man she fell in love with over the Internet to join ISIS.
In arguing for a lesser prison term, Mary Maguire, one of Coffman’s lawyers, told Gibney, “I think she never understood the gravity of what she was doing until it was too late.”
“She clearly got involved with something that was way over her head,” added Maguire.
But Gill countered that Coffman admitted she had seen ISIS photos of battlefield dead and beheading videos.
“She went into this with her eyes wide open,” said Gill.
Asked by the judge if she had seen a beheading video, Coffman admitted she had.
In pleading guilty in February to making a false statement involving international terrorism, Coffman admitted that last year she used Facebook accounts under different names to show her support for ISIS.
The charge stemmed from an FBI investigation into illegal conduct by Coffman and others suspected of providing support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
She lied to agents last Nov. 14, when she told them she had no idea if an unidentified foreign national with whom she admitted having an online romantic relationship had talked to her or anyone else who supported the Islamic State.
Coffman previously had put the man in contact with Islamic State fighters, and he had communicated with them to facilitate his travel to Turkey to join the militant group and become a martyr.
In the end the relationship ended and the unidentified man did not join ISIS or become a martyr.
Coffman, the mother of a boy, 7, who now lives with his father, served briefly in the U.S. Army. At the time of her misconduct, she was living with her parents and sister in Henrico County.
In asking for leniency, Coffman’s lawyers wrote that she accepted full responsibility for her actions. They said her lying, in part, was an effort to protect an undercover FBI investigator who she thought was a friend.
They painted a portrait of a naive, lonely person who grew up in a protective household and was sheltered from the real world. Although she is 30, with the exception of her stint in the Army she never has lived anywhere but her parents’ home.
“The social media machine ensnared Ms. Coffman, and she came to believe that (Islamic State) fighters were soldiers for God,” her lawyers wrote.
Given a chance to speak before she was sentenced, Maguire gave Gibney a note Coffman had written, saying her client was too nervous to address him.
Gibney read the note which said she recognized the harm she had done and was sorry for the effect her conduct has had on others, particularly her son.
In sentencing her, Gibney made it clear she was not being punished for expressing a belief in the terrorist organization but for lying to the FBI, which has limited resources in attempting to combat “the people who are actively trying to destroy civilization as we know it.”
“Her lies were just as blatant and as two-faced as you can imagine,” said the judge. “Hopefully she has learned her lesson from this.”