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Knoxville ISIS suspect on FBI radar since 2015, called 9/11 attacks "justified"

Benjamin Carpenter, 31, faces charges of translating a video depicting ISIS fighting and executions.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville man accused of helping ISIS terrorists told the FBI the 9/11 attacks were "justified," shortly after agents raided his Virginia home in May 2015, a federal court transcript revealed. 

Benjamin Carpenter, 31, "explicitly and repeatedly expressed his commitment to ISIS by praising ISIS attacks," prosecutors said. 

They said Carpenter worked to engage in what he called, "Jihad with a pen."

Transcripts of his April 5 hearing show Carpenter lived with his mother in Knoxville for two and a half years before his March arrest. She testified he does not have a bank account and worked only 10 hours a week at a pet sitting service. 

Prosecutors said Carpenter used his mother's University of Tennessee issued computer to write a blog post for the pro-ISIS website they allege he operated. 

During the hearing, prosecutors said Carpenter agreed to assist an undercover FBI agent to transcribe and translate a 25-minute ISIS video titled "Bleeding Campaigns." 

The video "documents ISIS’s military operations against Egyptian troops, including ISIS fighters engaging in battle, executing a suicide bombing, and capturing and executing three individuals," the judge's ruling said.

He faces charges that translation was an attempt to provide material assistance to the terror group.

"The mere thought about something that is distasteful or criminal in itself is not a criminal act that would support a conviction," said defense attorney Don Bosch. 

He questioned whether translating the video is enough to support a conviction—or whether the Bill of Rights provides Carpenter free speech protection.

"If this defendant did anything beyond simply translating this video, if he added context color further instruction, than it very well could be a crime. If he did nothing beyond translate, a very good argument for First Amendment protections may—and I stress may— lie in this case," Bosch said. 

A judge ruled Carpenter will remain in jail. On Thursday, his public defender filed a motion to delay his trial until at least August.