A day after federal authorities announced the details of the case against 47-year-old Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, he stood today before a federal in Brooklyn, N.Y., and pleaded not guilty during his arraignment. He could change that plea as the case against him progresses.
The procedure was brief, lasting about 10 minutes, and the judge seemed eager to move to case toward trial.
"Don't make any vacation plans," Judge Nicholas Garaufis warned prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Egyptian authorities then deported Pugh to the United States, where he was arrested by the FBI and found to be carrying multiple electronic devices, including a cell phone that allegedly contained a photograph of a machine gun. Some of the data on the electronic devices had been deleted, prosecutors say.
On his laptop, FBI agents discovered that he had been viewing ISIS propaganda online and conducting online searches for such phrases as "borders controlled by Islamic state," "kobani border crossing," and "who controls kobani," according to prosecutors.
In addition, the FBI recovered two of Pugh's backpacks, which allegedly contained two compasses, a solar-powered flashlight, a solar-powered power source, a fatigue jacket and camping clothes.
Pugh also allegedly searched online for the ISIS video "Flames of War," a 55-minute piece of propaganda that even the FBI highlighted late last year when asking "for the public's help identifying individuals who have traveled—or are planning to travel—overseas to engage in combat alongside terrorist organizations." Prosecutors say that, in total, they found 180 jihadist propaganda videos on his laptop.
According to court documents, he "appears to have close ties to a woman in Egypt whom he has identified as his wife."
A federal grand jury in Brooklyn, N.Y. indicted Pugh Monday on two charges -- attempting to provide material support to terror organization, and obstruction and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding.
Over the past 18 months, about 30 people have been charged with joining terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq or trying to do so.
Pugh converted to Islam after moving to San Antonio, Texas, in 1998 and "became increasingly radical in his beliefs," the feds said.
If convicted at trial, Pugh faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison.