Questionnaires are expected to be distributed on Tuesday to the
first batch of 500 potential jurors in Brooklyn, New York, in the
trial of Tairod Pugh, a 48-year-old New Jersey resident charged with
attempting to provide material support to Islamic State.
He is one of 80 people charged in federal cases related to Islamic
State since 2014 amid a push by authorities to identify potential
domestic supporters of the group, according to a Reuters analysis.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said it has probes in all 50
states involving suspected supporters of Islamic State, which has
seized control of wide swaths of Iraq and Syria.
Prosecutors said Pugh, who served with the Air Force from 1986 to
1990 and who recently worked as a commercial airplane mechanic in
Kuwait, in January 2015 bought a one-way ticket from Cairo, Egypt,
to Istanbul. Prosecutors said his goal was to cross the boarder into
Syria to join Islamic State.
But Turkish authorities sent him back to Cairo, where officials
found he had several damaged electronic devices including a cell
phone with a machine gun photograph, prosecutors said.
Pugh was deported to the United States, where he told an undercover
agent that he went to Turkey to join Islamic State, prosecutors
Prosecutors said Pugh's laptop computer contained propaganda videos
and a draft letter written to a woman he had married in Egypt in
2014 pledging to use his skills "to establish and defend the Islamic
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Pugh's lawyer, Eric Creizman, has sought to block the letter from
introduction at trial, calling it a privileged marital
Pugh has pleaded not guilty and contends he went to Turkey to find
He earlier had come to authorities' attention in 2001, when a
co-worker told the FBI that Pugh "sympathized with Osama bin Laden,
felt that the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies were justified and
expressed anti-American sentiment," court papers said.
In 2002, an associate told the FBI that Pugh had expressed interest
in going to Chechnya to fight, prosecutors said.
Nevertheless, Pugh went on to work in Iraq as an Army contractor for
DynCorp International, prosecutors said, and later worked as an
airplane mechanic in the Middle East.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Additional reporting by
Julia Edwards and Julia Harte in Washington; Editing by Noeleen
Walder and Leslie Adler)
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