SACRAMENTO (AP) — A terrorism suspect from California who was arrested near the Canadian border in Washington state and charged with attempting to travel to Syria to fight alongside Islamic extremists said in jailhouse interviews that he never intended to carry out attacks in the United States.
Nicholas Teausant told its reporters in two interviews that he is not dangerous and has been victimized by the FBI for his words and boasts, which he said got out of hand.
Investigators say Teausant, 20, planned to travel to Canada in March before heading to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq and poses a growing threat, U.S. officials say. Teausant has pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI alleges Teausant, a Muslim convert, discussed his terrorism plans with a friend who was actually an FBI informant.
“I’m not going to say that I’m completely innocent and I have no fault in this,” Teausant said in a call to The Sacramento Bee on Monday afternoon from jail. “Some of it is my fault, yes. 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.”
The Bee also interviewed him in person at the Sacramento County Jail, where the Lodi-area man is being held without bail.
His lawyer says Teausant suffers from mental illness and she hopes to negotiate a plea bargain with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Everybody involved in this case — the defense, the judge and the prosecution — agree that the defendant is mentally ill at this time,” Federal Defender Heather Williams said. “That’s really all we can say, because the government claims the investigation supporting the case includes classified information.”
The FBI declined to comment, but the U.S. attorney for Sacramento said investigators acted properly.
“We fully reviewed the evidence prior to filing charges in this case, and we are confident that the investigation was conducted properly by experienced agents,” Benjamin Wagner said.