Despite a tepid response from the president, the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris may be causing some U.S. officials to take stateside ISIS recruits more seriously. On November 17, the U.S. Department of Justice was to make an offer to Islamic State supporter Nicholas Teausant, seeking to resolve his case without trial “with the possibility of a guilty plea to an as-yet-undefined charge” as the Sacramento Bee reported. Reports of a settlement have yet to surface and Teausant, 22, remains in custody.
Teausant served in the National Guard’s 118th Maintenance Company in Stockton. He lacked extensive military training but gathered information on bomb making and jihad tactics from the English-language al-Qaida magazine Inspire. The Muslim convert talked about blowing up his daughter’s day care center, which was “Zionist.”
In March 2014 Teausant sought to join ISIS and said “I would love to join Allah’s army” and “I want to go fight in Syria.” He would only return to America after President Obama was dead, Congress gone, and chaos prevailing across the nation. Teausant offered to make a video for the ISIS and leave his face “wide open to the camera.” He wanted to be a “commander” and if he landed on the FBI’s 12 most wanted list “that means I’m doing something right.”
The aspiring ISIS fighter planned to reach Syria by flying from Canada but FBI agents arrested him on March 16 in Blaine, Washington, near the border. A Seattle magistrate returned Teausant to Sacramento where he faced a maximum penalty of 15 years for supporting a foreign terrorist organization. In August of 2014, Teausant granted an interview to Sam Stanton and Denny Walsh of the Sacramento Bee. “I’m not going to say that I’m completely innocent and I have no fault in this,” Teausant told the reporters.
“Some of it is my fault, yes,” he explained. “But then again I also feel that if the informant hadn’t come along I would have just been making idle boasts and I wouldn’t have done anything.” Teausant also told the reporters that while living in Montana he met a beautiful Muslim woman who would speak only to Muslim men. That spurred his interest in Islam, but it wasn’t only romantic. He wanted to blow up the “Zionist” day care center but claimed he would only bomb the place when nobody was there. He denied wanting to attack Americans.
“Even if they gave me the maximum 15 years I’d come out of prison at 35,” Teausant told the Bee reporters. “That still leaves me the rest of my life to go to college and get a Ph.D., do what I want and be with my family.”
During a February 2015 “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism” reporters raised the issue of Teausant with Obama appointee Benjamin Wagner, U.S. Attorney for California’s Eastern District. “About 150 Americans have gone or tried to go to join ISIL,” Wagner said. “If you don’t have a lot of economic opportunity and you feel marginalized, it can create a fertile environment for recruitment.” In Wagner’s view, “a lot of people who have been recruited didn’t have a long-term, religious involvement. A lot of this seems to be a teenaged fantasy.” Recruiters “have an appeal to angry, disaffected young people, and that really doesn’t have much to do with religion.”
Asked if Californians were in danger from the Islamic State and al-Qaida, Wagner said, “I would say it’s not a very high threat,” and the Obama appointee made his priorities clear.
“What I’m more concerned about is some sort of backlash crime here,” he said, “something gruesome will happen in Syria and someone will take revenge on the local community.” Wagner quoted Obama that “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” And as the Obama appointee put it:
“Religion doesn’t cause terrorism; people cause terrorist attacks. With grisly story after grisly story, there’s been a growth in Europe of xenophobic, anti-Islamic political movements, and one of the people at our community project yesterday said negative feelings toward Muslims in the U.S. are even worse than they were after 9⁄11.”
In December 2014, the court found Teausant not competent to stand trial but changed that to competent in August 2014. On October 20, 2015 Teausant appeared in court in Sacramento but made no statement. In court papers his lawyers have portrayed him as a confused incompetent who “couldn’t provide material support to a pup tent.” According to the October 20 Sacramento Bee report, “prosecutors must seek approval from the Justice Department’s national security division before making an offer to Teausant and his lawyers.”
Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party: Stalinist Adventures in the American Movie Industry and the new crime book Shotgun Weddings.