The federal government’s case against suspected Islamic State adherent Nicholas Teausant may have moved one step closer Tuesday to resolution without a trial, as a prosecutor said she will seek permission from Washington, D.C., to offer a deal to the defendant.
In a brief hearing Tuesday morning in Sacramento’s downtown federal courthouse, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean Hobler said prosecutors must seek approval from the Justice Department’s national security division before making an offer to Teausant and his lawyers.
That offer is expected to be made to Teausant’s defense team within a week, Hobler told U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, who agreed to push the case back until Nov. 17, with the possibility of a guilty plea to an as-yet-undefined charge.
Assistant Federal Defender Matthew Scoble told the judge lawyers are “cautiously optimistic” a resolution of the case can be reached.
Documents filed in the case since Teausant’s March 2014 arrest have teased out the notion that both sides were seeking a way to settle the matter without going to trial.
Teausant, whose 22nd birthday is on Monday, is charged with one count of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, a charge that could net a 15-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.
He appeared in court Tuesday in an orange jail jumpsuit but did not speak during the hearing.
Teausant said in a jailhouse interview with The Sacramento Bee in August 2014 that he hoped for a plea bargain that would incorporate some leniency. He denied wanting to stage any attacks against Americans.
A former community college student and National Guard washout who lived in Acampo, near Lodi, Teausant was arrested as he tried to cross the border into Canada near Blaine, Wash.
The FBI and prosecutors say his trip was part of a plan to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, which has become the Obama administration’s primary focus in its efforts against worldwide terror attacks.
Court documents say he was tripped up by an informant and undercover FBI agent.
Teausant’s case has been delayed in part by questions about his mental state. In December 2014, the court found he was not competent, but after subsequent evaluations, he was found competent in August and the case proceeded.
Another reason for some delay is that the prosecution includes evidence classified as secret by the government.
Teausant, who is being held without bail at the Sacramento County jail, has been described in court papers as boasting of wanting to bomb the Los Angeles subway system and blow up his infant daughter’s day care center because it was a “Zionist reform church.”
He allegedly boasted of wanting to train Islamic State fighters. “I’m going to be a commander and I’m going to be on the front of every single newspaper in the country,” he allegedly told the informant.
His public defenders presented a different view of their client, saying in court papers that he lacked the wherewithal to carry out such daring deeds.
“In reality, Nick couldn’t provide material support to a pup tent,” his lawyers argued in court documents.