A 22-year-old Seattle man was sentenced to four years in prison on Tuesday for attempting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The U.S. District Court in Seattle said Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams was arrested May 28, 2021 at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after authorities were notified of his desires to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS as an “executioner” or a “machine-gunner.”
Williams was charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. In addition to his four-year sentence, he was also given 15 years of supervised release.
According to a DOJ news release, U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour said Williams received a sentence “far below” the government’s request of 15 years because of his “mental health and history of mental health difficulties.”
U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said Williams was persistent in his plans to join ISIS to commit acts of violence, “despite intervention from his family, his school, members of his mosque, and from the FBI.”
“Indeed, he repeatedly stated his intention to commit an act of terror here at home if he could not travel overseas,” Brown said. “Mr. Williams continues to pose a risk to the community. It will be critically important that he be closely supervised after he is released from prison.”
Fox 13 Seattle reported that Williams’ mother cut off the internet service at their home to prevent him from accessing the extremist websites. Williams had also been kicked off of social media for pro-ISIS posts, according to his mom.
A Seattle-area mosque also tried to deter Williams, helping him with housing, food and tuition for a semester of college. He was also given a cellphone and laptop in hopes of using them to find a job, the outlet reported.
The electronics were taken away from Williams after a member of the mosque allegedly saw him using his phone to look at extremist videos. When they got his phone back, they found more violent videos and bomb-making instructions.
He was then reported to the FBI.
According to the plea agreement, Williams started telling his family he was a member of ISIS in November 2020. The document stated he was also telling people he sought “martyrdom,” had “no problem with killing,” and he hoped to be involved with beheadings.
He also reportedly posted a video on Facebook swearing his loyalty to one of the terrorist organization’s leaders.
The FBI monitored Williams’ activity with the help of confidential sources and were aware of his efforts to leave the country. He was communicating with people he believed to be ISIS recruiters about getting him to an ISIS terror cell in the Middle East or other parts of the world.
In May 2021, Williams got his passport and pawned off a laptop to raise money for his planned travel. He reportedly had an airline ticket from Seattle to Amsterdam to Egypt. When Williams went to the airport to leave for his flight to Amsterdam, he was met by authorities at the departure gate and arrested.
When prosecutors asked the court for a 15-year sentence, they wrote that Williams’ case was “far from unique” and ISIS, and other terrorist groups, use online propaganda communication tools to recruit would-be supporters.
“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,” the statement read.
“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. “He took concrete steps to fund his activities, procure equipment, and travel to the Middle East. I am grateful for how law enforcement was able to step in and stop him before he actually was able to achieve his goal.”