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U.S. Air Force vet gets 35 years for attempting to join IS

By Eric DuVall
U.S. Air Force vet gets 35 years for attempting to join IS
A federal judge sentenced Tairod Pugh, 49, a U.S. Air Force veteran, to 35 years in prison for trying to join the terrorist group the Islamic State. Photo by sergign/Shutterstock.

June 1 (UPI) -- A U.S. Air Force veteran was sentenced to 35 years in prison for attempting to join the terrorist group the Islamic State, prosecutors said.

Tairod Pugh, 49, a former Air Force mechanic, was convicted by a jury March 9 on charges of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group and obstruction of justice.

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Prosecutors said Pugh traveled to Turkey in January of 2015 in a bid to cross the border into Syria, but was turned away by the Turkish government. He was arrested shortly after he returned to the United States. During the trial, prosecutors showed evidence of Pugh's social media postings, which included numerous pro-Islamic State rants.

Pugh spoke for more than 30 minutes Wednesday prior to his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, denying he was trying to join the Islamic State. He said he only wanted to fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Pugh's lawyer, Susan Kellman, petitioned the judge for a more lenient 15-year sentence, arguing her client is a "very confused individual" who is mentally ill and did not understand the implications of his actions.

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Prosecutors were not as forgiving.

"The defendant turned his back on his country, and the military he once served, to attempt to join a brutally violent terrorist organization committed to the slaughter of innocent people throughout the world and the destruction of our way of life. Today's sentence sends a powerful message that those who support terrorist groups and seek to obstruct the efforts of our law enforcement community will be brought to justice," stated Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

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