Now 22, [Nicholas Teausant] entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and faces up to 15 years in prison on March 8, when he is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge John A. Mendez for attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Teausant spoke only briefly during Tuesday’s court hearing, softly answering, “Yes, your honor,” to questions from the judge and acknowledging that he continues to take medication for his schizophrenia and seizures.
His plea, which came in conjunction with him signing a five-page admission to his online activities and his attempt to travel to Syria to fight for the Islamic State, comes 21 months after he was arrested on a bus in Blaine, Wash., as he tried to enter Canada on his way to the Middle East.
Since then, Teausant has been in custody while his public defenders dealt alternately with negotiations for a plea deal and a delay in the proceedings when he was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.
His lawyers have described him in court papers as a boastful, hapless young man who “couldn’t provide material support to a pup tent.”
But U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, who sat in court Tuesday watching the guilty plea, said afterward that Teausant was a danger to the community and an example of how easy it is for some disaffected youths, especially those with mental illnesses, to become radicalized by online propaganda.
“Cases like this have to be taken very seriously,” Wagner said. “I don’t think I need to elaborate on the fact that there has been a lot of concern about ISIS and people becoming radicalized and going overseas to join ISIS.
“So anytime that we find out there’s potentially someone going over there to engage in violence, we have to take action, and that’s what the FBI did in this case.”
Wagner said his office has not decided what kind of prison sentence it will ask Mendez to impose, but he added that it will “seek significant prison time.”
“It’s obviously a very serious offense and it’s a very serious issue, so I think we have to seek a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime,” Wagner said. “At the same time, we recognize that there are some mitigating factors as well.
“Mr. Teausant does have some psychological issues. In the pantheon of aspiring terrorists, he’s probably not one of the most aggravated, but again, he had the potential to be dangerous."