Earlier today, a federal jury in Brooklyn convicted Bernard Raymond Augustine, a U.S. citizen and California resident, of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. The verdict followed a one-week trial before United States District Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. When sentenced, Augustine faces up to 20 years in prison.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Mark J. Lesko, Acting 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 (FBI), and Dermot F. Shea, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the verdict.
“The defendant’s unvarnished testimony at trial demonstrates his ongoing support for ISIS and its glorification of barbaric acts of terrorism, including attacks on U.S. soldiers, the enslavement of Yazidi women and mass killings, which he described as ‘cool,’” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Kasulis. “Today’s guilty verdict underscores the strong commitment of this Office and its law enforcement partners to combatting terrorism and protecting the United States from potentially dangerous threats to its national security.”
The evidence at trial established that in February 2016, the defendant traveled from San Francisco, California to Northern Africa, with the goal of joining ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. In the months leading up to his travel, the defendant watched ISIS propaganda, including videos glorifying ISIS’s violence, such as “The Flames of War.” The defendant 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 on the internet. He posted statements 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.”
Augustine then purchased a one-way airplane ticket and traveled to Tunisia so that he could present himself as a willing participant in ISIS’s terrorist activity. 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 subsequently returned to the United States in 2018, where he was brought to the Eastern District of New York for prosecution.
Augustine represented himself at trial with the assistance of standby counsel. The defendant took the witness stand in his own defense and his testimony included the following statements:
“I just want to tell the jury that I do not regret my decision, I’m proud of my decision and if I could go back and start over I would do it again, and if I became a free man tomorrow I would do it again, I would leave and I would do that again. I have no regrets about it and I’m proud of it. And I believe that all Muslims must immigrate to the Islamic State upon its establishment, especially ones living in the west.”
Augustine testified that he was aware that Islamic State fighters slaughtered members of the Yazidi ethnic group, and that he understood that the Islamic State enslaved Yazidi women.
Augustine described the Islamic State propaganda film “Flames of War,” which he acknowledged contains mass killings, as “a really cool video. You should watch the whole thing.”
Augustine testified that Islamic State propaganda showing holy warriors fighting and engaging in martyrdom and suicide bombings was “cool” and “hell, yeah, it was cool.”