An Air Force veteran was found guilty in federal court on Wednesday of attempting to support ISIS, becoming the first person to be convicted in a U.S. trial of supporting the terrorist group.
Tairod Pugh is now facing up to 35 years in prison after a Brooklyn jury found him guilty of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and obstruction of an official proceeding.
"This is the first conviction after a trial by jury in the United States involving an individual who attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIL," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin in a statement, using another acronym for ISIS, "and further demonstrates our commitment to bring to justice all those who seek to provide material support to terrorists."
Pugh, 48, served in the Air Force as an avionics instrument system specialist in the 1980s, before working for American Airlines and other companies as a mechanic. He converted to Islam in 1998 and became increasingly radicalized.
On Jan. 10, 2015, the Neptune, New Jersey resident tried to cross into Turkey from Egypt in an effort to ultimately reach Syria, but was denied entry by Turkish officials. He was detained in Egypt and found to be carrying a laptop and four USB thumb drives he had tried to destroy, as well as solar power charges, compasses, and a black ski mask.
Pugh was deported back to the U.S. where he was placed under FBI surveillance, before being arrested on Jan. 16, 2015, and indicted in March.
Prosecutors presented the jury with evidence that Pugh had searched online for borders controlled by ISIS, as well as propaganda for the terrorist group, including one video showing militants executing prisoners.
Additionally, jurors were presented with a letter Pugh drafted shortly before he attempted to travel to Syria. "I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the oppressed," he wrote. "I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic State. There is only 2 possible outcomes for me. Victory or Martyr."
“As presented in trial, Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh was willing to become a martyr, using his U.S. military training as a weapon for ISIL," said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Diego Rodriguez. "Instead, found guilty of his crimes, he is facing a lengthy incarceration."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
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