A California man arrested last year on suspicion of trying to join the Islamic State militia is competent enough to stand trial.
Nicholas Teausant, 21, was detained by federal authorities in March 2014 near the U.S.-Canadian border after months of surveillance by law enforcement officials. Federal law enforcement had been tipped off to Teausant’s various social media postings, including an Instagram post reviewed by TheBlot Magazine where the then-college student and former National Guard trainee claimed to have used an encrypted messaging service to contact people affiliated with Inspire, a digital magazine with ties to al-Qaida.
The posts prompted federal law enforcement to use an informant against Teausant in mid-2013. According to investigators, Teausant told the informant that he followed various web forum frequented by militants and had obtained a copy of the lone wolf jihadist guidebook.
“I would love to join Allah’s army,” Teausant wrote in a social media post, “but I don’t even know how to start.”
Teausant claimed to have met up with several individuals who wanted to attack the Los Angeles subway system, but ended his communication with them after learning the FBI had lured a terror suspect using Facebook (the plot against the subway system did not materialize).
In early 2014, he eventually settled on trying to fly to Syria in order to join the Islamic State, then a relatively-unknown militia group. A few days after his arrest, the Islamic State would start to become a household name when it published online a video showing the beheading of James Foley, an American journalist held captive by the group.
After his arrest, Teausant told the Sacramento Bee newspaper in a jailhouse interview that he would not have acted against his country. In the interview, he accepted some responsibility for his actions while at the same time blaming federal authorities for encouraging them.
“Some of it is my fault, yes,” he told the Bee. “But then again, I also felt that if the informant hadn’t come along, I would have just been making idle boasts and I wouldn’t have done anything.”
While awaiting trial, Teausant was diagnosed by jail hospital staff with schizophrenia and placed on medication. Since the diagnosis and treatment, his mental state has “improved,” according to lawyers cited by the Bee.
“In the months since his return to Sacramento, the defense team has met with Mr. Teausant on numerous occasions and has observed a marked improvement in his ability to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and to assist properly in his defense,” Teausant’s lawyers wrote in court documents filed earlier this month.
A status conference has been set for mid-September, though the Bee noted that Teausant may never actually go to trial because his lawyers are currently working with prosecutors on a settlement in the case. The charges against him bring a potential 15-year prison sentence, though a settlement or plea agreement could reduce the sentence.
Dozens of people in the United States have been charged over the past two years with attempting to provide support to Islamic State militants, although the exact number of people charged is unknown. Federal authorities estimate around 200 Americans have successfully joined the militia and other splinter groups since 2013.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.