An alleged supporter of foreign terrorists came within a whisker of bailing out of jail Wednesday before a Sacramento judge stayed the release order pending the government’s appeal.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire ordered Nicholas Michael Teausant released on $200,000 bail under restrictive conditions. But then she granted the request of Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt to hold up the release while prosecutors take the matter to U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.
That may come as early as Tuesday, when Teausant is scheduled to appear before Mendez for a status conference.
Teausant, a 20-year-old community college student and National Guard washout from Acampo, near Lodi, is charged in a one-count grand jury indictment with attempting to provide support and resources to a rebel group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
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Specifically, according to federal authorities, he was on his way to Syria two months ago to join the terrorist organization when he was arrested by the FBI in Washington as he was about to enter Canada.
Claire ordered him released to the custody of his grandparents. He would have been on house arrest at their residence except when court officials gave him permission to leave the house for health care, religious services or court appearances. He would have worn an ankle bracelet allowing court officers to electronically track him.
The judge also directed that he receive psychiatric treatment, “including drug and substance abuse treatment as appropriate.”
Half the bail would be secured by property owned by relatives and half would be an unsecured signature bond co-signed by Teausant and several family members.
Hitt questioned the ability of Teausant’s grandparents to care for and closely watch the suspect, especially if he decided to quit taking anti-psychotic medication. Since arriving April 2 at the Sacramento County Main Jail, he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on Risperdal.
The prosecutor told Claire he could see the potential for Teausant turning violent and the grandparents losing control of him, causing police to be summoned.
Hitt called the bail amount “inadequate,” and said “there is nothing stopping him from cutting off the bracelet and taking off.”
Assistant Federal Defender Benjamin Galloway argued that release of Teausant would help his mental illness, as opposed to “keeping him locked down 23 hours a day.”
“He’s going to be back in the community anyway,” Galloway said, predicting his client will not spend more than “six or seven years” in prison.
Teausant’s talk with an undercover FBI agent and a bureau informant about joining a terrorist group and fighting in Syria, as well as anti-American views he expressed to them, were “all hot air,” Galloway said.
“His mental illness appears to have made him a vulnerable and appealing target for the paid confidential informant,” Galloway and Assistant Federal Defender Matthew Scoble wrote in a motion for bail review.
Court papers and other material turned over to the defense lawyers by the government make it clear that the informant “groomed Mr. Teausant for months, giving him attention, feeding him information, and suggesting further action before Mr. Teausant boarded that train (to Seattle),” Galloway and Scoble wrote.
The agent and informant promised Teausant “his family would be taken care of ” while he was away, Galloway noted in court.
“I have seen no affirmative steps (to support terrorism) other than getting on the train,” Claire said. Further, she added, there is no history of “violent outbursts.”
While acknowledging the case to be “very serious,” the judge said she is satisfied the conditions she imposed would assure the safety of the community and Teausant’s continued presence.