Jury deliberates for former DePaul student accused of helping ISIS

The trial for former DePaul student Thomas Osadzinski charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS will resume Monday.

As closing arguments wrapped up this Friday, the jury for Osadzinski, who started at DePaul in fall 2017, left to deliberate from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, then adjourning until Monday.

He is charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Osadzinski, 22, allegedly spoke to and shared terroristic views and ideas with undercover FBI agents he assumed were Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathizers in online message boards in 2019.

Thomas Osadzinski (DePaul University )

Osadzinski was a computer science student at DePaul. In June 2018, he allegedly sent a message to an online chat room looking for instructions on building an explosive frequently used by terrorists and suicide bombers, landing him on law enforcement’s radar. He was ultimately apprehended in November 2019.

The first ISIS-related arrests were made in the U.S. in March 2014, and there have been a handful of arrests related to ISIS every year since 2014, according to George Washington University’s extremism tracker.

“What he intended to do was provide his services to ISIS,” Alexandra Hughes, a Justice Department trial attorney, said in trial closing statements on Friday.

Osadzinski’s case was thought to be the first of its kind when he was arrested in November 2019, given that it is a terrorism case brought against a U.S. citizen involving computer code, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

Using a complicated extension of Python computer script, Osadzinski created what he referred to as “Operation Heralds of the Internet,” a piece of code used to disseminate ISIS information and messaging faster than any human being could.

In addition to creating this code, Osadzinski actively offered to teach the undercover FBI agents how to utilize his code.

“He described this as a ‘very valuable project,’” Hughes said.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, defense attorneys Steve Greenburg and Joshua Herman contended a year ago that the undercover federal agents Osadzinski was messaging with “dangled opportunities” in front of him, and that he “did not provide funds to ISIS, plan violent activity, acquire weapons, or take any tangible steps to causing real-world harm.”

The defense’s case revolved around the idea that Osadzinski was first offered the chance to support ISIS and was partially goaded into the support he did provide. Second, Greenburg and Herman argued that – despite the radical content of his messaging – the defendant was nothing more than an “internet troll.”

The prosecution argued that, despite the lack of tangible action, there was more than enough evidence of action intended to help materially aid ISIS.

Osadzinski wrote in his messages that he would try to accommodate the code of his project, “Operation: Heralds of the Internet for Android” and other platforms “so brothers without computers could use it.”

Combined with correspondence with agents posing as ISIS supporters and the purpose of his personally created code, these actions build the foundation of the prosecution’s case.

“Osadzinski’s computer process would automatically copy and preserve ISIS media postings in an organized format, allowing social media users to continue to conveniently access and disseminate the content,” read the Department of Justice’s original statement.

“These […] are not the services he’s charged with providing,” Hughes said. “But they do show his intent.”

After deliberating from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. the jury adjourned for the weekend, and will recommence on Monday.

Osadzinski’s fate is tied to whether they see him as an overzealous sympathizer or someone who is desperate to explain away his desire to materially support ISIS and their mission of terror.

“There’s an expression,” Hughes said. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”