Seattle man sentenced to 4 years for 'providing material support' to ISIS

The judge cited Williams' "history of mental health difficulties," as his reason for leniency.

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
A Seattle man who attempted to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.

Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams, 21, was arrested in June of 2021 while he was about to board an international flight to Cairo. According to the Justice Department, Williams was planning on engaging in terrorist acts. He was charged with providing material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

US District Judge John C. Coughenour sentenced Williams to four years in prison, to be followed by 15 years of supervised release.

According to a statement from the US Attorney's Office in Seattle, the sentence was far below the 15-year prison term sought by prosecutors.

US Attorney Nick Brown said, "Mr. Williams persisted in his plans to join a terrorist organization and 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. ...It will be critically important that he be closely supervised after he is released from prison."

The judge cited Williams' "history of mental health difficulties," as his reason for leniency.

"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."

Williams was first on the FBI’s radar when he was 16. Administrators at his high school reported that he was trying to convince other students to join ISIS.

According to court documents, his family and faith community also expressed concerns about the defendant’s radicalization and informed law enforcement.

Members of a Seattle-area mosque tried to deradicalize Williams. They gave him housing, food, and tuition for a semester of college as well as a cellphone and a laptop hoping he would use them to find a job.

His mother told investigators that Williams had been kicked off social media for his pro-Islamic State posts. She cut off the internet at their home to prevent him from accessing extremist websites.

According to court documents, Williams had said that the fatal terrorist attack on an Ariana Grande concert in England in 2017 was justified because of the way the singer dressed.

In 2020, a member of the mosque saw Williams using his phone to view extremist videos. When they demanded the phone back they discovered violent videos and bomb-making instructions and reported him to the FBI.

Williams tried to convince a friend to join him in a suicide attack on the annual Pride Parade in downtown Seattle. Williams allegedly said, "It’s one of the biggest pride parades in the United States. Plus, after COVID hits, there are going to be tons of people wanting to go to the gay pride parade," according to court documents.

That year, organizers of the Capitol Hill Pride & March, also held in Seattle, announced they were banning Seattle Police officers from the march.

According to prosecutors, Williams planned to drive a semi-truck through the parade, mowing down marchers and spectators. He then would jump out of the truck and open fire on the crowd.

His friend refused to participate, and Williams gave up on the idea and became far more determined to join ISIS in order to "become a terrorist for real."

According to the plea agreement, in November 2020, Williams began telling family members he was a member of ISIS. Williams posted a video on Facebook in which he swore an oath of loyalty to a leader of ISIS. 

According to the Department of Justice, "Using confidential sources close to Williams, the FBI monitored his activity and became aware of his efforts to travel to the Middle East and join ISIS. Williams expressed to his associates that if he could not travel overseas, he would commit an attack in the US on behalf of ISIS. Williams began communicating with those he believed were ISIS recruiters who could get him to an ISIS terror cell in the Middle East or other parts of the world."

The plea agreement contained statements Williams made about his intentions: that he sought martyrdom, had “no problem with killing,” and hoped to be involved in beheading others.

In May of 2021, Williams obtained a passport and pawned a laptop computer to raise funds for his travel. He booked air travel from Seattle to Egypt with a connection in Amsterdam to join ISIS. On Friday, May 28 Williams was arrested at Sea-Tac Airport when he went to board his flight at the departure gate.

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