Nicholas Michael Teausant, accused as a terror suspect, lost his bid to win release on bail Tuesday, with a federal judge saying Teausant’s credibility is questionable and that the charge he faces is too serious to take a chance on letting him out of jail for now.
U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez said he could not go along with a plan that would have allowed Teausant to be released on $200,000 bail and sent to live with his grandmother and her husband at their Woodbridge home.
His proposed release would have required Teausant to wear an ankle monitoring device and receive mental health treatment and medication while he awaits trial.
Mendez said there were too many questions about Teausant’s past marijuana use, his lack of employment and the fact that he is an unmarried father of a 1-year-old girl but still tried to leave the area for his alleged terror plot to believe that he is suitable for release.
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“It just raises so many questions as to why doesn’t he accept more responsibility, why doesn’t he get a job,” Mendez said.
The 20-year-old resident of Acampo, near Lodi, is accused of trying to travel to Syria in March to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group. Prosecutors say he poses a deadly threat to the public, as well as his own family, if he is released on bail.
His defense lawyers have a different point of view, portraying Teausant as a hapless, mentally ill young man who lived in an Internet-fueled fantasy world and poses no threat to anyone.
“In reality, Nick couldn’t provide material support to a pup tent,” his attorneys argued in court papers filed Monday in preparation for Tuesday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.
Teausant nearly got out of jail one week ago when U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire ordered him released on $200,000 bail under restrictions that he remain under house arrest at his grandparents’ home, receive psychiatric treatment and wear an ankle monitoring device.
But the government won a delay in his release until Mendez could decide the matter.
With U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner watching from the audience, Mendez questioned Teausant’s grandmother, 66-year-old Sharon Mettler, and her 71-year-old husband, Kenneth, about whether they understood the burden they would face if he released Teausant to live with them at their Woodbridge home, where one of them would have to be on hand to watch him at all times.
“In effect, the proposal substitutes you as his jailers,” the judge told the couple, both retired postal workers.
“You can’t take vacations together, you can’t go on a cruise, you can’t enjoy life,” Mendez said.
“He’s family,” Sharon Mettler responded simply.
Federal prosecutors argued in court filings that Teausant is too unpredictable to be released while he awaits trial and notes that he talked constantly in meetings with a paid government informant of his desire for violence against the United States.
“During nine separate meetings between October 2013 and March 2014, the defendant expressed a desire to (1) bomb the Los Angeles subway system, (2) bomb his daughter’s day care center, and (3) put a bullet in his mother’s head,” prosecutors wrote in arguing against his release.
They added that Teausant has no employment history, “abused marijuana for the last three years” and cannot be allowed to return to his former life as a student.
“He cannot be ordered to attend classes at Delta College because he presents a danger to the student body at school,” prosecutors wrote. “He cannot be ordered to find gainful employment because, given his view of non-Muslims, he presents a danger to the public.”
Since he arrived at the downtown jail on April 2, Teausant has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on the medication Risperdal. That alone “makes him unsuitable for conditions of release,” prosecutors contend.
Teausant’s public defenders portray their client as a victim of a government informant who set him up by taking advantage of a troubled young man. “Nick Teausant’s history shows that he is a lonely, mentally ill young man with a tremendous desire to be liked, be accepted into a group, and have some significance,” his attorneys wrote in documents seeking his release.
They noted that Teausant’s father is relocating from the Midwest to Lodi to be closer to his son, and added in court that a psychological review of Teausant conducted in the jail found “minimal risk” if he were to be released.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt argued that the report was flawed and asked, “Is it really worth the risk of putting Mr. Teausant into the community?”
Mendez ultimately decided it wasn’t, although he left open the possibility for defense attorneys to return with more studies of their client’s mental state and other factors to try to win release on bail.
Teausant, a convert to Islam, met with a confidential government informant in Stockton for months and talked of his desire to wage jihad against the United States and to travel to Syria to help train rebel fighters there, court papers state.
He eventually decided to travel to Syria to train fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a group whose name he could not recall at one point in the government’s investigation, court papers indicate.
The informant helped him sell his laptop to an undercover FBI agent to get traveling money, and Teausant bought an Amtrak ticket and set off for Seattle, where he caught a bus headed for Canada, prosecutors allege.
The bus was stopped a few hundred feet from the border, and Teausant was arrested.
Although court papers indicate he had boasted of his military training and ability to train fighters, Teausant had washed out of the California National Guard, had no weapons or even a driver’s license or car.
“Nick Teausant was never going to make it to Syria, he was never going to find anyone who would take him in to fight, he was never going to provide any support to anyone,” his lawyers argued in court papers.