On Wednesday, 48-year-old Tairod Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey was found guilty of trying to provide material support to terrorists and obstruction of an official proceeding. His aim was to join ISIS and die a martyr.
This verdict is the first from the over 70 cases that the government has brought against Americans who are accused of trying to join ISIS.
Pugh was in the U.S. Air Force for 4 years (1986-1990) and began working as an aviation mechanic once he left the service. But last fall trouble began when he lost his job and allegedly told his superior to “stop talking to him like an idiot.”
Prosecutors said Pugh was stopped at a Turkish airport in January 2015 carrying a laptop with information on Turkey-Syria border crossing points, 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including footage of an Islamic State prisoner beheading, and a letter declaring: “I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States.”
During the trial, prosecutors showed jurors materials found on Pugh’s computer and cited a letter Pugh wrote to his wife saying, in part: “There is only two possible outcomes for me: Victory or martyr.”
Prosecutors said he flew there so he could find a route into Syria and join the Islamic State group. He was forced by authorities to turn back and was arrested soon after his return on a flight to New York City.
Pugh’s defense team, lead by attorney Eric Creizman, chalked it all up to being a large misunderstanding. According to the defense, Pugh was depressed after losing his job and found interest in a small Islamic State that stood up to their enemies.
They went on to claim that his views were simply fantasies and that he had no intent to help ISIS, only to move to Turkey with his wife. Creizman pointed out that the articles that Pugh was found to be reading were all from mainstream sources, rather than underground websites that are often found to be recruitment breeding grounds.
None of this made much sense to the jury nor the prosecution. Pugh’s social media presence was littered with posts that seemed to vocalize support for ISIS. Creizman simply said that while some views could be seen as offensive to some, they are not the mark of any deliberate action to aid a terrorist group.
Additionally, his computer contained detailed info on how to cross into Syria from Turkey. Something else the jury had a hard time reconciling with his story.
What should his punishment be? Share your thoughts in the comments below!