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Former DePaul student gets 7 1/2 years in federal prison for writing computer code to help ISIS – Chicago Tribune

A former De Paul University student was sentenced Thursday to 7 1/2 years in federal prison for using his computer skills to help the Islamic State terrorist group spread violent propaganda on social media.

Lawyers for 23-year-old Thomas Osadinski portrayed him as a naïve, socially awkward teenager who struggled with mental health issues when he was “drawn in” by radical ideologies in the dark corners of the internet.

However, in sentencing Osadinski, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said there was a wide gulf between typical youthful intransigence or bad judgment and Osadinski’s behavior, which included pledging allegiance to a “heinous group” such as ISIS and “advocating and encouraging” its violent actions. message around the world.

“I think you realize now how serious this is,” Gettleman said. “You have shown remorse. Is this real? I hope.”

Osadinski, who was born and raised in Northbrook, was convicted by a jury last year of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. The accuser requested that he be sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment, the defense – 5 years of imprisonment.

Before his sentencing, Asadzinski, who has been in custody since his arrest almost three years ago, appeared in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and black glasses and condemned Islamic State, saying he was in a “dark place” in time and “lost on the internet”.

“I was looking for answers and I thought I found them, but it was all a lie,” Osadinsky said. “And if it’s not clear, I completely renounce ISIS.”

Osadinsky’s voice cracked with emotion as he apologized to his parents, sitting in the courtroom gallery, saying he was “deeply ashamed and saddened” by the way he had ruined his once-promising future.

By then, Osadinski said, he should have graduated from college. Instead, he watched from a window at the Metropolitan Correctional Center as his graduating class stood on the Elle platform at the Harold Washington Library across from the jail, holding blue and red balloons, DePaul’s colors.

“This is a life that I ruined by my choices and my decisions,” Osadinski said as his mother sobbed. “I let everyone down and I let myself down.”

Given his good behavior and time already served, Osadinsky will likely be 28 when he gets out of prison. Gettleman was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release, allowing authorities to monitor his social media contacts and activities.

Osadinsky’s two-week trial was the latest in a series of ISIS-related cases filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago that have continued since the collapse of the group’s caliphate in Syria and Iraq in 2019.

Shortly before Osadinsky’s arrest, two friends from the far northern suburb of Zion were convicted by a federal jury of trying to aid a terrorist group by providing cellphones to an undercover FBI agent to use as detonators for bombs. Joseph Jones was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while his co-defendant, Edward Schimenti, received 13 1/2 years behind bars.

Prosecutors said they found a copy of the indictment against Jones and Schimenti during a search of Osadinski’s North Side apartment after his arrest in November 2019.

Osadinsky’s case was unique because it focused on fairly rudimentary computer code he wrote, rather than planning any actual attack or attempting to send equipment overseas.

Osadinsky’s lawyers play down his sophistication and say he never had any serious intentions to support terrorism. In fact, attorney Steven Greenberg said Thursday, when an alleged ISIS sympathizer asked him to translate and distribute bomb-making instructions, Osadinsky refused.

“He certainly knew not to do those other things,” Greenberg said.

But prosecutors said his statements, both online and in undercover recordings, showed he was excited to create a new and potentially powerful tool for ISIS, which relies heavily on social media to spread propaganda.

In her closing arguments to jurors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melody Wells said Asadinsky’s computer program could quickly download, replicate and distribute violent ISIS videos faster than social media platforms could remove them, greatly improving the terrorist organization’s messaging capabilities.

“He came up with something valuable and he knew it,” Wells said. “He was doing something important.”

In one 2019 conversation highlighted by prosecutors, Osadinski told someone he believed to be ISIS’s propaganda chief that he was “the only person in the world doing this right now.”

When asked what he planned to do with the script he wrote, Osadinsky allegedly replied: “Spread it everywhere… now I’m doing as much jihad as possible.”

But Assadinsky’s lawyers painted him as desperately naive, decorating his online chats with emojis, using stencils and fabric to make his own ISIS flag, even printing out jihad posters in the campus library.

A recent convert to Islam, Osadinski spoke only rudimentary Arabic and fell prey to overzealous agents who posed as ISIS supporters, befriended him and assigned him a mission that ultimately came to nothing, according to attorney Joshua Herman.

Herman also drew attention in his closing argument to FBI reports in which undercover agents described Osadinsky as an ISIS “boyfriend” — a term Herman said was similar to “someone who writes letters to Justin Bieber.”

“All this talk about what he wants to do for ISIS,” Herman said in a mocking tone. “It’s like he’s the Elon Musk of the Caliphate.”

A 38-page criminal complaint filed in 2019 alleged that Asadinski converted to Islam as a teenager, expressing his allegiance to the Islamic State in online forums that included undercover FBI agents he believed were terrorist sympathizers .

Osadinski began developing a process that uses a computer script to make ISIS propaganda more accessible and spread by social media users, the complaint said.

To stop a certain social media platform’s attempts to remove offensive content, Osadinsky’s computer process was designed to automatically copy and save ISIS media posts in an organized format, allowing users to continue to conveniently access and distribute the content, according to the indictments.

“It can run on any computer and will be very light, fast and secure,” Osadinsky allegedly wrote to one undercover federal employee.

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Osadinski eventually shared his script and instructions on how to use it with individuals he believed to be ISIS sympathizers and members of pro-ISIS media organizations, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the FBI monitored Osadinsky’s online activities for almost two years. He knew he was being watched because an agent tried to interview him in March 2018, but he refused to talk, according to prosecutors. Instead, agents interviewed his parents.

In court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas said contact with law enforcement “should have scared him,” but instead he became more radical, stalking an FBI agent and sending her information to others online. Jonas also said that his apartment had a picture of him killing the agent.

On the day of his arrest, Osadinski fought back with such force that “it took four FBI agents to take him down,” Jonas said, adding, “He kicked one of them across the room.”

When Gettleman later remarked that it was not something to be proud of, Osadinsky intervened.

“I’m not,” he said.



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