A US Air Force veteran convicted of terrorism charges for trying to join the Islamic State group and die a martyr was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison by a judge who called it a “very sad thing” a onetime airman would want to join a group seeking to destroy America.

Last year’s conviction of Tairod Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey, was the first verdict from more than 70 cases the government brought against Americans accused of trying to support the militant group.

“This isn’t about whether you’re a Muslim or a Christian or Jewish,” U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis told Pugh, who’s 49. “This is about whether you’re going to stand up for your country.”

The Brooklyn judge called Pugh’s military service “a long time ago” commendable but said the defendant squandered his training as an airplane mechanic and all the good things the United States did for him with a decision to betray his country.

“The work of the Islamic State is to destroy our way of life,” the judge said. He added that he can’t imagine a US military veteran trying to join such a group.

“It’s a very sad thing,” he said.

 

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