Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Jan. 31, 2023

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Seattle man sentenced to 4 years in prison after trying to join ISIS

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SEATTLE — A Seattle man who attempted to travel to the Middle East and join the Islamic State group of Iraq and al-Sham was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday.

Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams, 22, was arrested by federal agents last year at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport while attempting to board a flight to Egypt, where he planned to attend an ISIS training camp in the Sinai Desert, according to court records. He was charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Williams’ sentence, four years imprisonment with 15 years of supervised release, is far less than the 15 years originally requested by federal prosecutors.

“Mr. Williams continues to pose a risk to the community,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown in a news release. “It will be critically important that he be closely supervised after he is released from prison.”

At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said he was imposing a four-year sentence because of Williams’ “mental health and history of mental health difficulties,” according to the news release.

“The sentence reflects Mr. Williams’ vulnerabilities, including his young age and significant history of mental health issues,” Williams’ attorneys, Mohammad Hamoudi and Corey Endo, said in a statement. “We believe his mental health issues made him vulnerable to the predations of the government informants who encouraged and facilitated Mr. Williams’ actions.”

Williams entered a guilty plea in March to the charge that called for a maximum prison term of 20 years. According to the plea agreement, Williams began describing himself as a member of ISIS to family and friends in 2020 and posted a video of himself online pledging allegiance to the group.

In October 2004, the U.S. secretary of state designated al-Qaida in Iraq a foreign terrorist organization and nearly a decade later, the designation was amended to include the group’s aliases, including the Islamic State group of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the complaint filed against Williams says.

Williams began messaging FBI “confidential human sources” posing as ISIS recruiters online in 2021 about his travel plans. They requested he travel to the Sinai Desert to “fight with ISIS,” according to the plea agreement.

“Mr. Williams proved by his actions he was willing to join the Islamic State in hopes of furthering their ideology through violence,” said Richard A. Collodi, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office, in a news release. “He took concrete steps to fund his activities, procure equipment, and travel to the Middle East.”

In May 2021, FBI agents arrested Williams at Sea-Tac Airport after he presented his boarding pass for a flight to Cairo.

Williams, a U.S. citizen, first came to the FBI’s attention when he was a teenager living in California, according to the complaint. School administrators and Williams’ mother contacted the FBI and told agents he said he wanted to fight for ISIS, but “no longer felt that way.” The FBI chose not to pursue a formal investigation, according to a sentencing memorandum from prosecutors.

The FBI later opened an investigation in 2020 after monitoring Williams’ online activity.

The judge asked that Williams be placed at a prison in Sheridan, Oregon.

“Sadly, this case is far from unique,” said the prosecutors’ sentencing memorandum. “ISIS and other terrorist groups engage in the recruitment of would-be supporters using online propaganda communication tools. Far too many U.S. persons fall prey to this recruitment and attempt to travel to fight with terrorist groups overseas or seek to commit local attacks in the name of terrorist organizations.”

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