A DePaul University student’s online bragging about his computer skills and support for the Islamic State was nothing more than ‘puff’ and is protected by free speech the student’s lawyer told a federal jury on Tuesday.
“It’s like someone goes on his dating profile and says he’s 6-3 / 4 with abs of steel when he looks like me,” attorney Steve Greenberg said in his trial opening statement. linked to the terrorism of his client, Thomas Osadzinski. . “He blows… he says stuff, but it’s not enough.”
Osadzinski, 22, is accused in a federal indictment of using the computer skills he taught DePaul to create a one-of-a-kind code designed to disseminate violent propaganda online for the Islamic State terrorist group.
Prosecutors alleged that Osadzinski converted to Islam as a teenager, expressing his dedication to the Islamic State in online forums that included undercover FBI employees whom he believed to be supporters of the Islamic State. terrorism.
In her opening remarks Tuesday, Prosecutor Alexandra Hughes, a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice, said Osadzinski had made it clear in his communications that he wanted to use the skills he was developing at DePaul to lead “jihad in the media”.
Many of his ideas failed, but in the summer of 2019, a script written by Osadzinski managed to automatically download and stream “thousands and thousands” of violent pro-ISIS videos and images before they could. be removed by social media companies, Hughes said.
Osadzinski shared the script with an undercover FBI agent posing as an ISIS supporter, giving a “step-by-step analysis of what he was doing,” in order to teach others, Hughes said.
“In the end, the defendant’s process worked,” she said. “He did what he was supposed to do.”
Greenberg, however, portrayed Osadzinski as a sad student who was getting a D in computer science. He said Osadzinski found solace in the online Islamic community and was eventually drawn to a highly paid FBI confidential informant who befriended him and helped move the plot forward.
“He took advantage of this young man who was trying to find his way in life,” Greenberg said.
Prosecutors’ first witness on Tuesday was an FBI language analyst who began chatting online with Osadzinski in June 2018 about the recipe for a powerful explosive favored by terrorists and suicide bombers.
The witness, testifying under the pseudonym Mahammad Hazeem, said that when he told Osadzinski he had to be careful, Osadzinski allegedly replied that he “will study”.
“Do you mean study for school?” Hazeem responded in the chat, which was shown to jurors on a large screen in the courtroom of US District Judge Robert Gettleman.
Osadzinski reportedly replied: “For jihad”, followed by an emoji heart and a symbol associated with the terrorist group Islamic State.
Osadzinski also spoke in their conversation of plans for a potential attack in the United States, according to Hazeem’s testimony.
At one point, Hazeem said he warned Osadzinski to choose his targets carefully so as not to hurt innocent Muslims. Osadzinski replied that it was better to target the government.
Osadzinski also wrote that targeting citizens “can be risky” unless they commit blatant sins in public, such as during an “LGBT parade” while drinking in bars and nightclubs, according to the testimony.
In cross-examination, Hazeem admitted that his alert level was low because Osadzinski did not appear to have any concrete plans. In fact, after Osadzinski first posted something about jihad, Hazeem waited 23 days to contact him.
Osadzinski has also made statements showing his apparent naivety. At one point, after Hazeem asked him if he had access to a gun, he replied that he was not old enough to buy one legally. Defense attorney Joshua Herman asked how this could be taken seriously, given the prevalence of guns in Chicago.
“Does that sound like an excuse?” Herman asked.
“It’s possible,” Hazeem replied.