By Julian Hattem - 03/09/16 05:08 PM EST
A jury in New York on Wednesday found a 48-year-old Air Force veteran guilty of trying to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS).
The decision is the first time a jury trial has led to a conviction for someone trying to join ISIS. The Justice Department has brought charges against multiple other people suspected of trying to join the extremist group in recent months, but many of them have pleaded guilty rather than be convicted after a jury trial.
Tairod Pugh was arrested in Turkey last January on his way to Syria, carrying a black ski mask, solar chargers and computer equipment that he had apparently tried to scrub clean. Days later, he was deported to the United States, where he was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
He had previously served four years in the Air Force, from 1986 to 1990.
During the roughly week-long trial, government lawyers sought to portray Pugh as having been immersed in ISIS’s propaganda efforts.
In one letter Pugh drafted, which was presented as evidence during the trial, he apparently pledged to “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,” he added: “Victory or Martyr.”
Rep. Adam SchiffAdam SchiffTrump denies Russia behind attack, despite fed investigation saying otherwise Lawmakers on attributing hacks to Russia: Strike back Obama administration publicly blames Russia for DNC hack MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said at the time that he worried Pugh might have been able to pass along information about U.S. aircraft that could have been useful to the extremist group.
Pugh faces up to 35 years in prison for the charges of providing material support to ISIS and obstructing an official proceeding by destroying USB drives after his detention in Turkey. Sentencing is expected later this year.