U.S. Citizen Sentenced to 20 Years’ Imprisonment for Attempting to Provide Material Support to ISIS
Defendant Sought to Join the Islamic State in Libya, and Testified at Trial that He Would Again Seek to Join ISIS if Acquitted
Earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, Bernard Raymond Augustine was sentenced by United States 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.
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 (FBI), and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (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. “Detecting and thwarting terrorism and keeping the people of this country safe will always be priorities of this Office.” Mr. Peace praised the work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force on the case.
“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.
“Protecting our nation’s security is paramount, and this case illustrates our continued commitment to fight terrorism in every form, both here and abroad,” stated NYPD Commissioner Sewell. “Any person who puts American lives at risk will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, and I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Justice Department’s National Security Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the members of the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, and everyone else who prevented this threat and kept Americans safe.”
The evidence at trial established that in February 2016, Augustine traveled from San Francisco, California 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.”
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security and Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, Josh Hafetz, and Jonathan E. Algor are in charge of the prosecution, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Justin Sher of the Counterterrorism Section of the Department of Justice.
BERNARD RAYMOND AUGUSTINE
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-383 (SJ)