A U.S. Air Force veteran and former airplane mechanic charged with trying to join the Islamic State will be among the first Americans to go on trial as a result of the U.S. government’s pursuit of dozens of suspected sympathizers of the militant group.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 48, was stopped at a Turkish airport in January 2015. He told investigators he was just on a vacation, but an indictment alleged that he was carrying 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including one featuring the beheading of an Islamic State prisoner. Later, prosecutors said they found a letter on his computer in which he told his wife he wanted to join the Islamic State.
Jury selection in Pugh’s trial at a federal court in New York City is scheduled to begin in earnest this week. Pugh has pleaded not guilty to charges that he tried to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstructed justice.
The Justice Department said it has pressed criminal charges against more than 70 Islamic State sympathizers, though some published reports have put that figure higher.