U.S. citizen sentenced in Brooklyn Federal Court for attempting to join, aid ISIS
On Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court, Bernard Raymond Augustine was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. to 20 years’ imprisonment for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS” or “the Islamic State”).
Augustine, a U.S. citizen and California resident, was convicted by a federal jury after a one-week trial in August 2021.
The evidence at trial established that in February 2016, Augustine traveled from San Francisco to Northern Africa, with the goal of joining ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. After arriving in Tunisia, Augustine was detained by local authorities before he could make it to ISIS-controlled territory across the border in Libya. He was returned to the United States in 2018 and prosecuted in the Eastern District of New York.
In the months leading up to his travel, Augustine watched ISIS propaganda, including videos glorifying ISIS’s violence, such as “The Flames of War.” He conducted internet searches for, among other things, “how to safely join ISIS,” and reviewed websites related to ISIS recruitment practices, including one titled “How does a Westerner join ISIS? Is there a recruitment or application process?”
Augustine also posted numerous statements in support of ISIS and violent extremism, such as “the Islamic State is the true Islam,” “Muslims who leave the west . . . answer the call for the struggle, and march until they are victorious or martyred are the true believers,” and the ISIS caliphate “can’t be established and maintained except through the blood of the mujahideen who practice the true belief.”
The defendant represented himself at trial and testified that he maintained his interest in supporting ISIS. Augustine testified that ISIS videos of members executing Syrian captives and beheadings were “good” and “really cool.” He admitted that one way he intended to provide material support to ISIS was to participate in ISIS propaganda videos, by providing the necessary English-language voice over. When asked to confirm his testimony that he “would do it all again and would go back today,” Augustine responded, “No, tomorrow, when they let me off.”
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office, and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, NYPD, announced the sentence.
“Today’s sentence ensures this dangerous defendant will not join ISIS as he tried to do in 2016, and testified at trial that he would do again if the jury acquitted him. The trial evidence demonstrated that Augustine is a committed supporter of ISIS, that he glorified beheadings and other acts of terror, and that he intended to support the terrorist organization by encouraging more English speakers to join its ranks,” stated United States Attorney Peace.
“The sentence Mr. Augustine received today insures he will never achieve his stated ambition of joining ISIS and supporting the terrorist group’s pursuit of its reprehensible goals. Protecting our nation from terrorism in all its forms remains the FBI’s top priority, and today’s outcome is the latest example of our commitment to pursuing this mission both domestically and globally,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Driscoll.
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