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U.S. Air Force vet Tairod Pugh sentenced to 35 years for attempting to join ISIS

NEW YORK -- A U.S. Air Force veteran convicted in New York of terrorism charges for trying to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and die a martyr will spend 35 years in prison.

Tairod Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey, was sentenced Wednesday.

Prosecutors say Pugh was stopped at a Turkish airport in January 2015 carrying a laptop with information on Turkey-Syria border crossing points. They say the laptop also contained 180 jihadist propaganda videos, including footage of a beheading.

Prosecutors cited a letter Pugh wrote to his wife saying there were only two possible outcomes for him: "Victory or martyr."

New Jersey Air Force veteran charged in plot to support ISIS 02:19

Pugh's attorney insisted he had no ill intent when he went to Turkey.

Pugh's 2016 conviction was the first verdict from more than 70 cases the government brought against Americans accused of trying to support the militant group.

Pugh served in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990 and was trained in installing and maintaining aircraft engines and navigation and weapons systems. The airman first class was first assigned in July 1987 to the Woodbridge Air Base in England and then to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona in July 1989, the Air Force said. After leaving the Air Force, he worked as an avionics specialist and mechanic for companies in the Middle East and U.S.

The FBI got a 2001 tip about Pugh from a co-worker at American Airlines who said Pugh expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden, according to court papers. The airline said he left in early 2000 after a few months at American. In 2002, an associate of Pugh's again told the FBI that Pugh was interested in traveling to Chechnya to wage war, the indictment said.

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