A federal jury found U.S. Air Force veteran Tairod Pugh guilty Wednesday of trying to join ISIS in Syria in the first ISIS-related verdict to be reached in an American courtroom. The 48-year-old American citizen was arrested in New Jersey last year after a stint working as an airplane mechanic in the Middle East. Pugh was deported back to the U.S. from Egypt where the FBI kept tabs on him.
Here’s more on Pugh from the Washington Post:
Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey, served in the Air Force from October 1986 until October 1990 as an an avionics instrument system specialist, authorities have said. He traveled last year from Egypt to Turkey — hoping to cross the border into Syria and join the Islamic State — but was intercepted by Turkish authorities and eventually deported to the U.S., prosecutors said. There, prosecutors said, the FBI monitored Pugh closely, including having an undercover employee keep tabs on him at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Court records say Pugh became interested in extremism long before the rise of the Islamic State. An associate told the FBI that he showed interested in moving to Chechnya to “fight jihad” as far back as 2002. He was also said to have sympathized with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Pugh watched online ISIS propaganda content and went so far as to pen a letter to his wife pledging his support for ISIS and referencing their life together in paradise after he died a martyr. “But [Pugh] had not sent the letter, giving his defense an opening to argue that although Mr. Pugh was an ardent ideological supporter of the Islamic State, his visions of joining the group were just fantasies,” the New York Times notes. “The jury rejected that defense, convicting him of crimes that carry a potential 35-year sentence.”
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