(Reuters) - A former member of the Army National Guard in Virginia was sentenced on Friday to 11 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to Islamic State, despite calling himself a "complete idiot" for having once accepted the group's views on Islam.
Mohamed Bailor Jalloh, 27, of Sterling, Virginia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria, Virginia, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
Prosecutors had sought a 20-year term for Jalloh, a U.S. citizen originally from Sierra Leone, while the defence sought a 6-1/2-year term.
Joseph Flood, a lawyer for Jalloh, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The United States has designated Islamic State as a foreign terrorist organisation. Islamic State controls parts of Syria and Iraq, and its fighters have carried out shootings and bombings of civilians in several countries.
Jalloh was arrested on July 3, one day after he bought an assault rifle from a Virginia gun dealer, but which unbeknownst to Jalloh had been disabled because he was already under surveillance. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 27.
Prosecutors said Jalloh spent six months in Africa in 2015, where he met Islamic State members in Nigeria and started laying plans to join the group.
He also began communicating online with an Islamic State member who put him in touch with someone he thought would help him carry out an attack, but who was actually a government informant, prosecutors said.
According to a statement of facts he signed and filed in court, Jalloh thought about carrying out an attack similar to the one by former Army Major Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.
By May 2016, Jalloh was talking with the informant about attack operations, calling them "100 percent the right thing," and began efforts to buy weapons, the statement of facts said.
In a letter to the court, he renounced Islamic State.
"I have and have always had deep respect and still have respect for the American people and the American values that I pledged to serve," he wrote. "I feel like a complete idiot for accepting such a superficial and dishonest interpretation of Islam."
The case is U.S. v. Jalloh, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, No. 16-cr-00163.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool