Bernard Raymond Augustine was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn by US District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. to 20 years in prison for attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (“ISIS ‘ or ‘Islamic State’). Augustine, a US citizen and California resident, was convicted by a federal jury in August 2021 after a week-long trial.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Matthew G. Olsen, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice’s Division of National Security, Michael J. Driscoll, Deputy Executive Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI ) and Keechant L. Sewell, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the verdict.
“Today’s verdict ensures that this dangerous defendant will not join ISIS, as he tried to do in 2016 and testified in court that if the jury acquitted him, he would do it again. Evidence from the trial showed that Augustine is a staunch supporter of ISIS, that he glorified beheadings and other acts of terrorism, and intended to support the terrorist organization by encouraging more English speakers to join its ranks,” prosecutor Peace said. “Detecting and foiling terrorism and keeping the people of this country safe will always be priorities of this office.” Mr. Peace commended the work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force on the case.
“The verdict Mr. Augustine received today ensures that he will never achieve his stated ambition to join ISIS and assist in the pursuit of the terrorist group’s 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 that mission both domestically and globally,” said Driscoll, deputy chief of the FBI.
“Protecting the security of our country is of the utmost importance, and this case illustrates our continued commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms, both here and abroad,” said 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 US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the members of the FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force and everyone else who prevented this threat and protected Americans.”
Evidence at trial revealed that Augustine traveled from San Francisco, California to North Africa in February 2016 with the aim of joining ISIS, a designated foreign terrorist organization. After arriving in Tunisia, Augustine was arrested 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 charged in the Eastern District of New York.
In the months leading up to his trip, Augustine watched ISIS propaganda, including videos glorifying ISIS violence, such as “The Flames of War.” Among other things, he searched the Internet for “how to join ISIS safely” and reviewed websites related to ISIS recruitment practices, including one entitled “How does a westerner join ISIS? Is there a hiring or application process?” Augustine also released numerous statements in support of ISIS and violent extremism, such as “Islamic State is the true Islam,” “Muslims leaving the West. . . Answer the call to battle and march until they are victorious or martyred, who are true believers.”
The defendant represented himself in court and testified that he maintained his interest in supporting ISIS. Augustine testified that ISIS videos of members executing and beheading Syrian prisoners were “good” and “really cool.” He admitted that he intended to provide material support to ISIS by participating in ISIS propaganda videos by providing the necessary English-language voice-over. When asked to confirm his statement that he would “do everything again and return today,” Augustine replied, “No, tomorrow if they release me.”
The government’s case is being handled by the bureau’s National Security and Cybercrime Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Craig R. Heeren, Josh Hafetz and Jonathan E. Algor are leading the prosecution, with assistance from trial attorney Justin Sher of the Department of Justice’s Counterterrorism Division.
BERNARD RAYMOND AUGUSTINE
EDNY File Number 18-CR-383 (SJ)