Moments later, Garaufis described Kandic’s behaviour as “extreme” and “unfathomable”, saying he had turned beliefs “into hatred and murder” on a “grand scale”.
“Jake Bilardi did not deserve to die,” Garaufis said. “And he did not deserve to kill anyone.”
Kandic, a citizen of Kosovo and a legal permanent resident of the United States, was one of thousands of radicalised figures from dozens of countries who travelled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State, a brutal group known for forcing women into sexual slavery and for drowning, burning and beheading prisoners.
Although he was placed on a no-fly list and prevented twice from boarding flights to Europe, Kandic was able to leave the United States for Istanbul in 2013, taking a complicated route that included stops in Texas, Mexico, Panama, Brazil, Portugal and Germany.
Upon arrival in Islamic State territory, prosecutors said, Kandic joined a brigade of mostly foreign fighters, called Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar and led at the time by a Georgian national, Omar al-Shishani, who served as the Islamic State’s minister of war.
He also established relationships with Islamic State group leaders like Abu Luqman, the group’s governor of Raqqa province, and Bajro Ikanovic, a Bosnian national who ran a training camp for recruits in northern Syria, prosecutors said. Evidence introduced at trial by prosecutors showed that Kandic relayed “battlefield intelligence” to Ikanovic and once alerted him to the presence of “a spy” in Mosul, Iraq.
Starting in 2014, prosecutors said, Kandic was based in Istanbul. He worked in what he called the Islamic State’s “media department,” prosecutors said, running dozens of Twitter accounts that spread the group’s propaganda, including a video called “Flames of War” that showed the executions of Islamic State enemies.
Kandic also used social media to recruit people to join the group, according to prosecutors, letting those aspiring fighters stay in a “safe house” he maintained in Istanbul, helping them obtain bogus Turkish and Syrian identity cards and sending them to Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia and Egypt.
One of those whom Kandic is said to have shepherded was Bilardi, who prosecutors said searched for the term “Turkey-Syria border smugglers” in the summer of 2014, when he was 17 and living on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia.
Within roughly two days, Bilardi had found his way online to Kandic, who prosecutors said guided him over the course of weeks, giving him advice on items to bring with him from Australia and specific instructions on where to go in Istanbul after arriving there by plane.
Bilardi joined the Islamic State group in Syria by late 2014 and later credited Kandic’s assistance, prosecutors said, adding that the two stayed in touch for months as Bilardi fought in battles and prepared for a suicide mission.
That attack came in the spring of 2015, one of several that took place that day in Anbar province, prosecutors wrote. They involved at least 11 suicide bombers, killed more than 30 people and preceded an Islamic State takeover of that region two months later.
Communications intercepted by the Iraqi military showed that other Islamic State fighters had “congratulated” Bilardi for the “success” of his attack and that the group had issued “condolences” for his death, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors added that Kandic had spoken up about Bilardi’s “martyrdom operation,” referring to him on Twitter as a “lion” who had killed and wounded many “kufar”, a derogatory term for nonbelievers.