Just days after a U.S. Air Force veteran and airplane mechanic was charged with trying to join the terrorist group ISIS, he plead not guilty Wednesday in a federal court in Brooklyn, NY, according to NBC News.
Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, a 47-year-old native of Neptune, NJ, was indicted by a grand jury this week on charges of attempting to provide material to members of the Islamic State of Iraq, obstruction, and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding, the report says.
Citing court documents, NBC says Pugh served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 as an avionics instrument specialist. After leaving the Air Force, the report says he worked for companies in the U.S. and Middle East as an avionics specialist and airplane mechanic.
So far, 23 Americans have been charged with trying to fight for ISIS, the report says, quoting Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.
NBC News reports:
According to the indictment, Pugh was fired from a job in Kuwait as an airplane mechanic in December 2014. He then allegedly flew from Egypt to Turkey on January 10 in an effort to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS and wage violent jihad.
Turkish authorities denied him entry into the country, however, and sent him on back to Egypt. He was deported from Egypt to the U.S. in January 15, after he was found carrying suspicious items, including a photograph of a machine gun. While Pugh was arrested Jan. 16, the case has been sealed.
Prosecutors said searches of his laptop revealed online queries about borders and crossing points controlled by the Islamic State, and videos showing ISIS executions. Social-media posts showed Pugh repeatedly professed a desire never to return to the U.S., even though he has family — including children — in the country.
Court documents obtained by Heavy say that upon being told he was going to be deported back to the U.S., Pugh reportedly said that he preferred to be sent anywhere in the Middle East instead of the U.S. because “the U.S. doesn’t like Black Muslims.”
If convicted, he faces up to 35 years in prison.