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Trial date set in case of Philly’s ‘Young Lioness,’ alleged ISIS sympathizer

Keonna Thomas is depicted shown in Philadelphia's federal court in this artist's rendering. Prosecutors allege she wanted to join the Islamic State group

Keonna Thomas is depicted shown in Philadelphia's federal court in this artist's rendering. Prosecutors allege she wanted to join the Islamic State group

The case of the 31-year-old North Philadelphia woman accused of supporting the Islamic State is moving toward trial this fall.

On Thursday, Keonna Thomas’ defense attorneys said the prosecution is “devoid of any concrete plans,” saying the indictment spells out nothing more than vague arrangements and opens the possibility of prosecutors bringing the same charges against her at a later date if the government fails to prove its case the first time.

And so, public defender Kathleen Gaughan asked the government for more particulars to better prepare for trial and avoid the prospect of double jeopardy, being charged twice for the same crime.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson called this argument “very creative,” and an “appropriate strategy to represent your client,” but not enough to compel prosecutors to provide more specifics.

Investigators presented enough evidence to bring a single-count charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization, Baylson said, and whether that’s enough to win a conviction should be up to a jury.

After Thomas supposedly chatted with ISIS fighters on Twitter and planned overseas travel, federal prosecutors arrested her last April. She was known as “Young Lioness” on Twitter.

She faces one charge of providing “material support” to terrorists. It comes from a broadly worded law passed as part of the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

A conviction has a maximum punishment of 20 years behind bars.

On Thursday, Thomas, wearing a hijab and an olive-green jumpsuit, appeared still and didn’t say anything. She has been in federal custody for 13 months.

Gaughan said it appears as if the charge is rooted in fearmongering.

But the judge said Thomas’ Twitter usage and other online activity is enough to file charges under the law, and he already ruled on that after tossing out Gaughan’s motion to dismiss.

Baylson said he will give Gaughan a week to research any possible precedents from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, or the U.S. Supreme Court, specifically about forcing the government to give up more details in order to avoid double jeopardy.

Barring any cases, however, the judge said he will deny the defense team’s latest effort to attack the indictment.

An Oct. 17 trial date has been set.

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