BROOKLYN, New York – Federal prosecutors charged an Air Force veteran with trying to join ISIS on Wednesday, in one of the most high profile domestic cases against an American seeking to side with the terror group.
Dressed in a blue T-shirt and tan pants, Tairod Pugh stood at attention, handcuffed, while the charges against him were read aloud this morning at a federal court in Brookyln.
Prosecutors allege he attempted to join ISIS from Turkey and destroyed evidence of those efforts. Pugh pled not guilty to both counts.
The two charges are “pretty straightforward,” U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis said at the hearing, and he told lawyers to prepare for a speedy trial.
“Don’t make any vacation plans,” he said, adding that the case could go to trial this summer, a prompt schedule for a terrorism case. By contrast, it took 19 months to go from initial charges to a trial in the Boston Marathon bombing.
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Pugh’s lawyer, Michael Schneider, told the court that he needed to review the evidence authorities seized from his client before the trial.
A source involved in the case told msnbc it is still too early to determine if Pugh could reach a plea deal with authorities. He was held for two months before the charges were publicly announced this week, a secret process where authorities could question him and potentially offer leniency for cooperation. The charges, which carry over 30 years in prison, suggest plea negotiations did not go very far to date.
While some Republicans have criticized the Obama Justice Department for trying terror suspects in U.S. civilian courts, and the Department withdrew a plan to try a Guantanamo detainee in New York in 2011, today’s hearing showed how such proceedings are often safe and uneventful. The scene and security inside the courtroom was typical, except for a large group of reporters. There was some additional security outside the courthouse, including armed federal marshals in addition to local police, but no sign of other observers or protesters.
At the end of the hearing, the Judge scheduled the next court appearance in the case for May 8.