Two Chicago-area men convicted of providing support to Islamic State

Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti in evidence photo following their arrest in Chicago

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - Two Chicago-area men were found guilty on Thursday of supporting Islamic State in a federal case in which one of them was accused of saying he hoped to see the jihadist group's flag over the White House, local media reported.

Edward Schimenti and Joseph Jones, both 37, were convicted for providing material support and resources to terrorists in a jury trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Schimenti was also found guilty of lying to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, the Chicago Sun Times reported.

The men could face up to 20 years in prison when they are sentenced at a later date, according to the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois.

The men from Zion, Illinois, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Chicago, were accused of pledging allegiance to Islamic State and using social media to back violence in support of the militant group, according to court papers.

Jones and Schimenti were also accused of discussing backing Islamic State with two undercover FBI employees and an informant and sharing photographs of themselves displaying the Islamic State flag at a state park, according to court documents.

Schimenti told the informant he would like to see the flag "on top of the White House," according to a 77-page criminal complaint filed against the men.

Attorneys for the men argued that they were entrapped by federal agents and what they wrote and talked about was protected by their constitutional right to free speech.

"It was the government that created this entire case out of thin air," they wrote in a motion filed in court in 2018.

The men's lawyers also wrote in court papers that an undercover agent asked Schimenti if he wanted to "rock it out," which he interpreted to be an invitation to commit a violent act. He refused, walked out of the meeting, and told Jones he never wanted to see those people again.

The men were also accused of providing cellular phones to the informant, believing they would be used to set off explosives in Islamic State attacks, the complaint said.

A week before they were arrested in April 2017, Jones and Schimenti drove the informant to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, believing the informant would be flying to Syria to fight with Islamic State, according to court documents.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang)

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