ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - It's a long way from Rowan County to the Middle East, and it's a long way back to Winston-Salem.
That's was Donald Morgan's journey to a sentencing hearing in federal court for attempting to help the terror group ISIS.
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Moments before he was sentenced Morgan told a judge "I don't condone violence."
Federal agents said Morgan's actions suggest otherwise.
Morgan was “flying the black flag of America's enemy,” Assistant US Attorney Graham Green said.
Agents said last year Morgan, who is a former Boy Scout and sheriff's deputy who converted to Islam, moved to Beirut, Lebanon and tried unsuccessfully to cross into Syria to join ISIS.
At that point the FBI began following his social media posts.
One said "killing our enemies and beheadings are justified."
Another said "Allah, give me martyrdom wherever I may be."
Wednesday morning in federal court Morgan told a judge the postings were "emotional outburst" that "weren't intended to advocate violence."
The judge sentenced Morgan to 20 years, three months in prison.
Several members of Morgan's family were in the courtroom to support him. His mother was in tears but outside court declined to comment on her son's association with ISIS.
Morgan insisted he only intended to help ISIS with humanitarian aid.
The judge didn't buy it, saying he was convinced that if Morgan had made it into Syria he was ready to become an ISIS soldier.
The judge said he hopes today's sentence serves as a warning to others.
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