The San Joaquin County man arrested near the Canadian border earlier this month was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Sacramento on a charge of attempting to support a foreign terrorist organization.
Nicholas Michael Teausant, a 20-year-old community college student and National Guard member from Acampo, abandoned that life on March 15 to join a terrorist group in Syria, according to court papers.
But, the papers say, he was forced to abort his plan after the FBI caught up with him as he was about to cross into Canada.
Wednesday’s one-count, one-paragraph indictment alleges that Teausant, also known as “Assad,” attempted to provide support and resources, “namely himself, to work under the direction and control of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which has been designated by the secretary of state as a foreign terrorist organization since 2004 and which announced a name change to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in April 2013.”
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Teausant appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge in Seattle 10 days ago and was ordered held and transported to Sacramento. He is in the custody of deputy U.S. marshals, but has not yet arrived in Sacramento.
Three days after Teausant’s arrest, a McClatchy foreign correspondent reported that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS, executed members of rival Syrian rebel groups captured during rebel infighting in January that left 3,000 dead, according to United Nations investigators.
The report describes ISIS as “a rogue group recently disowned by al-Qaida’s core leadership.” The U.N. investigators were quoted as saying “ISIS fighters executed not only members of rival rebel groups, but also people who belonged to secular civil society movements that have been pushing for a democratic replacement for Syrian President Bashar Assad.”
In February, the BBC reported that Abu Mohammed al-Julani of the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, had warned ISIS that it would be driven from Syria and “even from Iraq,” if it did not halt all military operations against other rebels and allow an Islamic court to rule on its actions.
Teausant grabbed the FBI’s attention when, as “Assad Teausant bigolsmurf,” he posted several communications on the social networking apps Iphonegram/Instagram “indicative of his desire to conduct violent jihad and to be part of America’s ‘downfall,’ ” according to an affidavit of FBI Special Agent Justin Jacobs filed March 17 in federal court.
In a post on May 31, 2013, Jacobs says in the affidavit, Teausant said, “I would love to join Allah’s army but I don’t even know how to start.”
On the forum ask.fm under the name “assadthelion,” he declared “I want to go fight in Syria,” in reply to another user’s question, Jacobs reports.
Armed with knowledge of Teausant’s aspirations and his ignorance of how to realize them, the FBI stepped in with a paid, undercover source.
The operative and Teausant were introduced by a mutual acquaintance – who had no inkling that one was working for the FBI – as converts to the Muslim religion.
The source, referred to in the affidavit as “CHS,” recorded some of his conversations with Teausant. Much of what they discussed focused on Teausant’s ambition to fight in Syria. Another subject touched on was a purportedly aborted plan to bomb the Los Angeles subway system, which Teausant claimed to be in on.
Early this year, Teausant told CHS he was planning to travel by air from Canada to Syria. CHS inquired as to which group he wished to join.
“I like ISIS,” he replied. “Islamic state of, um, crap I forget.”
At a meeting in Lodi on Feb. 1, Teausant again expressed to CHS his intent to join ISIS.
“He said he was never returning to America, unless it was after President Obama was dead, Congress was gone, and there was ‘anarchy and chaos,’ ” Jacobs quotes CHS in the affidavit. “Teausant stated he would make a video for ISIS but he would not cover his face, he would be ‘the one white devil that leaves their face wide open to the camera.’ ”
On March 5, CHS took Teausant to a Stockton hotel room and introduced him to an undercover law enforcement officer posing as CHS’ “mentor,” who was willing to advise Teausant on whether to follow through on his desire to join ISIS.
Two days later, the undercover officer and Teausant met at a Stockton park, and the officer said he had decided Teausant should sign up with ISIS.
On March 15, Teausant boarded Amtrak in Lodi to begin his journey to Syria. FBI agents followed him on the trip.
At approximately 11:40 p.m. on March 16, in Blaine, Wash., U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stopped the Amtrak bus on which Teausant was about to cross into Canada. After telling the officers he was traveling to Vancouver, British Columbia, he was removed from the bus and arrested.