Madison man charged with trying to join ISIL

A Madison man is charged with trying to travel to either Iraq or Syria to join ISIL.

Joshua Van Haften, 34, was charged in federal court with attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization. He appeared in court Thursday and has been ordered held without bond.

A federal complaint says Van Haften traveled to Istanbul on Aug. 6 with the intent of crossing Turkey’s border and joining the terrorist group. He was arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago Wednesday evening after landing on a flight from Turkey.

U.S. Attorney John Vaudreil called Van Haften a flight risk. Van Haften’s lawyer, Joseph Bugni, said he looks forward to “having all the facts brought to light.”

A complaint states that a former associate of Van Haften told authorities Van Haften previously traveled to Egypt and came to the attention of police there when a woman complained about him taking pictures of a military facility.

The associate said Egyptian police notified the U.S. Embassy about Van Haften. He was returned to the U.S. when his status as a sex offender was discovered. The associate said Van Haften said he wanted to travel to Syria and Libya to join Jabhat Al-Musrah.

A Homeland Security agent determined Van Haften was in Egypt from October 2012 to January 2014.

A woman also reported to authorities an incident involving her 11-year-old son talking to an unidentified man on Aug. 24 near the Capitol in Madison. She said the man talked to her son about World War III, Syria and leaving the U.S. to go to Syria.

The complaint states that the woman and her son correctly identified a photo of Van Haften as the man the son talked to.

Van Haften also told a roommate in September 2014 that he didn’t like living in the U.S and wanted to go overseas, according to a complaint. The roommate said Van H.aften made comments referring to jihad.

The complaint states Van Haften also told another person that if everything works out, he will not return to the U.S.

Investigators said they reviewed Van Haften’s public Facebook profile and messages to friends and found comments and “likes” supportive of ISIL objectives.

“Van Haften traveled overseas for the alleged purpose of joining and attempting to provide material support to ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. “Stemming the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria and holding accountable those who attempt to provide material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations remains a top priority for the National Security Division.”

If convicted, Van Haften faces up to 15 years in prison.


Records show Van Haften grew up in Rock County, and lived in homes in Beloit and Janesville.

Janesville Police Chief David Moore told News 3 Van Haften has been arrested more than 60 times between 1993 and 2007, although not all of those arrests were in Janesville.

Pages of criminal complaints show prior convictions in Rock County include a felony for a physical assault involving a gun in 1998.

The criminal complaint said Van Haften attacked an associate in Janesville with a gun for allegedly dating his ex-girlfriend. The complaint states Van Haften hit the man on the left side of his head, cutting his ear, requiring the victim to get several stitches.

Van Haften was also convicted of a sexual assault of a minor in March of 1999. The complaint said he had non-consensual sex with the minor on two separate occasion during the same year.

Most recently he was convicted of failure to provide sexual registry information on March 19, 2013.

According to the Department of Corrections, Van Haften told authorities in 2012 he was moving to Egypt. In May of 2012, records show he attempted to fly from Chicago to Toronto, where he was refused entry because of what authorities described as possessing potentially threatening paperwork.

Criminal complaints show Van Haften later made several threats in writing to the Department of Corrections, the United States and himself, including hate and death notes.

The Department of Corrections also claims he left a voicemail where he told them he hated America.

Van Haften’s former employer in Janesville, who did not want to be identified, said he never mentioned politics, but described his behavior and personality as strange and made other employees nervous.

The Janesville landscaping company owner fired Van Haften in 2007 after only two months of working for the company.

Van Haften later threatened a former co-worker by phone, blaming him for losing his job. He was convicted of telephone harassment in May 2007 for that incident.

Van Haften’s mom, Janice Van Haften, who lives in Beloit, had no idea before Thursday the way her son had made his way back on American soil.

“It isn’t making me happy. It’s very sad. I don’t know what more to do for him, but help him,” Julie Van Haften said. “The friends I’ve talked to are not terrorists. He is not a terrorist. He does not like ISIS. He is so against ISIS . He’s told me. I know him more than anybody in this world. He just wanted to be free.”