SEATTLE - A 20-year-old Seattle man pleaded not guilty Thursday to a federal charge that he tried to join the Islamic State group.
Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams was arrested late last month at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he checked in for a flight to Cairo, according to federal prosecutors. A complaint filed in U.S. District Court said members of a Seattle-area mosque who had been trying to de-radicalize Williams were the ones who tipped off the FBI that he continued to espouse violence and extremism.
Williams appeared by video conference for his arraignment Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Kate Vaughan. His attorney, public defender Mohammad Hamoudi, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf to one count of providing material support to a foreign terror group.
She set trial for Aug. 9.
Hamoudi told the judge that the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac had denied his requests to meet with his client or speak with him by phone. Williams’ defense team had not been able to speak with him since Hamoudi’s co-counsel, Corey Endo, met with him shortly after the arrest, Hamoudi said.
A complaint said members of a Seattle-area mosque who had been trying to de-radicalize Williams were the ones who tipped off the FBI that he continued to espouse violence and extremism.
Williams was due to make an initial appearance in court later Tuesday on a charge of providing material support to a terrorist organization. Court records did not immediately identify an attorney who might speak on his behalf.
The complaint described Williams as "self-radicalized" and said he first came to the FBI’s attention when he was 16. That’s when administrators at his high school reported that he was telling others he wanted to join ISIS and that the fatal terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in England was justified by the way the singer dressed.
At the time, his mother told the FBI that Williams had been kicked off social media for his pro-ISIS posts and that she cut off the internet service at their home to keep him from accessing extremist websites, the complaint said.
Last November, a member of the mosque, which is not identified in court papers, contacted the agency to report concerns about Williams, FBI special agent David Narrance wrote in the complaint. As an act of charity, the mosque had been looking after him in an attempt to de-radicalize him — helping give him a place to live, food and tuition for a semester of college.
Members of the mosque also gave him a cellphone and a laptop in hope the items would help him find a job, the complaint said. But they also made clear he would have to abandon ISIS if he wanted help.
A member of the mosque subsequently saw Williams using the phone to watch ISIS-related videos and to engage in extremist online chats, and demanded the phone back, Narrance wrote. Members of the mosque reviewed the phone and were disturbed by what they found: graphically violent videos, including beheadings by ISIS militants and bomb-making instructions.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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