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Air Force veteran suspected of trying to join ISIS pleads not guilty

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BROOKLYN (PIX11) - Outside Federal District Court in Brooklyn Wednesday morning, security with armed automatic weapons were in full site as the New Jersey man accused of trying to aid ISIS faced a judge.

Inside, Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an Air Force veteran who last served 25 years ago, was arraigned on two-counts of attempting to join the extremist group.

The 47-year-old stood focused before the judge wearing a federally-issued prison smock and with his arms clenched behind him. Pugh was not wearing handcuffs.  Michael Schneider, his federal defender, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

The Air Force veteran had been on the FBI's radar for more than a decade prior to his January 16th arrest in Asbury Park.  The Feds state that Pugh was fired from his job as an airplane mechanic in Kuwait this past December.  On January 10th he allegedly traveled from Egypt to Turkey to try and slip into Syria and join ISIS.

Authorities in Turkey denied him entry and shipped him back to Egypt, where he was deported on January 15th.  The Feds state that his confiscated laptop had approximately 180 jihadist videos along with ISIS propaganda. It also included border crossings in Turkey and Syria.

After the brief arraignment, PIX 11 News reached out to his Schneider who said that he had no comment in the case involving his client.

This latest arrest comes during a six-week stretch that has seen President Barack Obama take aim with some of his harshest criticism against ISIS.

"Isil on the defensive and is going to lose," is what President Obama said back on February 11th.

The comments put a bigger spotlight on the terror organization that has garnered much attention through sophisticated productions on social-media.

Domestically, the arrest of two men in Brooklyn and one in Florida in late February made national headlines.  The trio had plans to attack law enforcement if they were unable to travel to Syria to join ISIS according to the federal complaint.

Commissioner Bill Bratton backed-up the federal complain at news conference in the aftermath of the arrests, "If they were not able to go, that they would seek to acquire weapons here handguns, machine guns, and seek to attack very specifically police officers."

As for the case centered on Pugh? His next date in federal court is set for May 8th.  He is facing the potential of a maximum 35 years behind bars.