Air Force vet gets 35 years prison for trying to join ISIS

A US Air Force veteran convicted for attempting to join ISIS was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in prison.

Tairod Pugh, 49, from New Jersey, was found guilty in 2016 on federal charges of trying to give material support to ISIS and of obstruction of justice, according to the US Justice Department indictment.

“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,” Acting United States Attorney Bridget Rohde said in a statement released on Wednesday.

Prosecutors had presented evidence that the former aircraft mechanic was traveling from Egypt to Turkey in January 2015. Investigators say Pugh was carrying a laptop computer and four USB drives that he had stripped of their plastic casings in an effort to destroy their contents and thereby make them unavailable to investigators. He was denied entry and Turkish authorities returned him to Egypt.

Foreign government officials quickly deported Pugh to the United States, where the FBI closely monitored him, relying in part on a covert undercover employee who encountered Pugh at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the Justice Department.

Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015, in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

Prosecutors also alleged that investigators discovered a letter on Pugh’s desktop computer saying he wanted to “use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States,” and a chart of crossing points between Turkey and Syria, where ISIS controls some territory.

Crossing the Middle East

Pugh, a convert to Islam, served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990, according to the Justice Department. Pugh traveled from Egypt to Turkey on January 10, 2015, in an effort to cross the border into Syria to join ISIS to engage in violent “jihad,” according to the statement from the Justice Department.

In addition to the laptop computer, Pugh was also was carrying solar powered chargers, compasses, a black balaclava, and clothing suitable for war-torn Syria.

One piece of evidence was a letter Pugh wrote just before leaving for Turkey.

“I am a Mujahid. I am a sword against the oppressor and a shield for the oppressed. I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic State. There is only 2 possible outcomes for me. Victory or Martyr,” Pugh wrote in the note, prosecutors say.

In Turkey, authorities were suspicious that Pugh was heading to Syria, denied him entry, and sent him on a return flight to Egypt, US officials say.

While detained in Egypt, authorities found that he was carrying “four USB thumb drives that had been stripped of their plastic casings and an iPod that had been wiped clean of data,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

He was then deported to the United States, where the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force got a warrant for his devices, the Department said.

The FBI found the letter in which Pugh spoke of using his “talents and skills” to defend the Islamic State, as well as recent internet searches for ISIS propaganda videos.

Pugh was trained in installing and maintaining aircraft engines, and navigation and weapons systems, according to the Justice Department.

‘Case good for the justice system’

Eric Creizman, Pugh’s lawyer, said at the time of Pugh’s conviction that he believed that there was reasonable doubt in the case.

“Our client maintained his innocence since day one, so we went to trial and put up the best fight we possibly could,” Creizman said. “It was a well-tried case, an interesting case, because the whole thing was what they could glean from his state of mind from things he did, on the internet and on the computer.”

“I think this case is good for the justice system. It’s good for the world to see that in this country, you get a trial by jury,” Creizman said. “In the Islamic State, people accused of crimes don’t get such fair treatment.”

In 2001, while working for American Airlines, one of Pugh’s co-workers told the FBI that Pugh “sympathized with Osama bin Laden, felt that the 1998 bombings of US embassies overseas was justified and expressed anti-American sentiment,” according to his criminal complaint.

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OAS debates crisis in Venezuela

While some member countries of the Organization of American States met on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in Venezuela in Washington, authorities in Caracas continued using tear gas canisters and water cannons to disrupt a massive protest against President Nicolas Maduro.  

The OAS aired the meeting on their website, as Maduro’s opposition shared photos and videos of the massive protest on the Francisco Fajardo Highway. 

Maria Angela Holguin, Colombia’s chancellor to the OAS, said in Spanish that coming up with a solution to the crisis in Venezuela is becoming “increasingly urgent.” She added that Maduro’s effort to change the constitution “is not a solution to the actual political conflict.” 

Venezuelan authorities have linked 59 deaths to the recent wave of anti-Maduro protests. Protesters are injured daily and thousands have been arrested. Some soldiers and police officers have faced charges for killings during the protests and civilians have faced military tribunals. 

Nicaragua was among the countries who continue to support Maduro. Venezuela announced its withdrawal from the OAS in April. 

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Rambunctious pup gets recruited for bigger mission

At one point  the dog Stella was adopted, but her energetic nature would become too much for her adoptive family.

So she came back to the  Humane Society of Broward County where they found a way to use her personality for good. 

The Labrador retriever mix is now a as search and rescue dog.  

It’s not that no one wanted Stella, the problem was she was too much to handle.

But volunteers found that instead of trying to make Stella fit in with a family, they decided to let her embrace her talents.

 She’s quite the rambunctious dog.

Stella the 1-year-old Labrador retriever mix is full of energy, the type of the dog you’d love to play fetch with.

Finding a place where Stella belonged was a challenge. She was adopted and brought back to the humane society a couple of times.

“Even running around she just gets more and more excited,” Cherie Wachter, a volunteer, said.

 That’s until one day, a volunteer did some research and found that Stella’s high energy and obsession with tennis balls would actually make her a good search and rescue dog.

“For her it’s second nature,” Jinette Pantalone said.

An  evaluator came to meet Stell and she did some preliminary test, like searching for a tennis ball in a concrete rubber field and walking across a ladder with no hesitation.

 No surprise the National Disaster Search Foundation in California accepted her into their program.

Stella has finally found a place where she belongs.

Stella is off to California Thursday where she will undergo eight to 10 months of training before being placed with a handler.

 

 

Follow this story

Rambunctious pup gets recruited for bigger mission

At one point the dog Stella was adopted, but her energetic nature would become too much for her adoptive family.

So she came back to the Humane Society of Broward County, where they found a way to use her personality for good. 

The Labrador retriever mix is now a search-and-rescue dog.  

It’s not that no one wanted Stella. The problem was she was too much to handle.

But volunteers found that instead of trying to make Stella fit in with a family, they decided to let her embrace her talents.

She’s quite the rambunctious dog.

The 1-year-old Labrador retriever mix is full of energy. Finding a place where Stella belonged was a challenge. She was adopted and brought back to the humane society a couple of times.

“Even running around she just gets more and more excited,” volunteer Cherie Wachter said.

 That is until one day, a volunteer did some research and found that Stella’s high energy and obsession with tennis balls would actually make her a good search-and-rescue dog.

“For her, it’s second nature,” Jinette Pantalone said.

An evaluator came to meet Stella and did some preliminary test, like searching for a tennis ball in a concrete rubber field and walking across a ladder with no hesitation.

The National Disaster Search Foundation in California accepted her into their program.

Stella has finally found a place where she belongs. She is off to California, where she will undergo eight to 10 months of training before being placed with a handler.

Follow this story