A Fort Stewart soldier who allegedly plotted to help ISIS attack U.S. Forces in the Middle East and kill U.S. military service members will have his hearings held at the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York.
During a hearing held Jan. 21 at the United States District Court of the Southern District of Georgia in Savannah, Judge Christopher L. Ray, presented Cole James Bridges, a/k/a “Cole Gonzales,” with a summary of the two charges against him as written in a 29-page document.
Bridges was stationed at Fort Stewart at the time of his arrest.
Judge Ray explained that Bridges had a right to remain silent and the right to an attorney and informed Bridges that he is entitled to a preliminary hearing and that he could have it in the Southern District in New York as opposed to having it in Georgia. The Judge also said Bridges could request the hearings be transferred to United States District Court of the Southern District of Georgia, if he desired.
Bridges said he preferred to have the hearings in the Southern District of New York. Bridges is expected to be transported to New York by the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York on Jan. 19, Bridges, 20, of Stowe, Ohio, is charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Bridges is also charged with the attempted murder of U.S. military service members, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint charging Bridges, which was unsealed Jan. 22, in Manhattan federal court, Bridges was assigned as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart around September 2019. Approximately a month later he started researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and alSham (ISIS) and jihad on social media.
The Judge reviewed information as also detailed in the release that Bridges, in or around, October 2020, began communicating with an FBI online covert employee (OCE), who was posing as an ISIS supporter in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East. During these communications, Bridges expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS.
Based on the report, Bridges allegedly provided training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, such as the 9-1-1Memorial. Bridges also provided the OCE with portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics, for use by ISIS.
Around December 2020, Bridges began to supply the OCE with instructions for the purported ISIS fighters on how to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East. Among other things, he diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters.
Bridges further provided advice about the best way to fortify an ISIS encampment to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops.
This month Bridges provided the OCE with a video of himself in body armor standing before a flag often used by ISIS fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS. He also sent a second video which showed Bridges, using a voice manipulator, narrating a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops.