WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts Air National Guard member charged with leaking highly classified military documents will remain behind bars while he awaits trial, a federal magistrate judge ruled Friday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Hennessy said releasing 21-year-old Jack Teixeira would pose a risk that he would attempt to flee the country or obstruct justice. The judge cited Teixeira’s “fascination with guns,” disturbing online statements and admonitions by Teixeira's military superiors about his handling of sensitive information before his arrest.
The ruling comes after prosecutors revealed that Teixeira had a history of violent rhetoric, and was caught by fellow military members months before his arrest taking notes on classified information or viewing intelligence not related to his job.
Teixeira is accused of sharing classified military documents on Discord, a social media platform popular with people playing online games. The stunning breach exposed to the world unvarnished secret assessments on Russia’s war in Ukraine, the capabilities and geopolitical interests of other nations and other national security issues.
The judge said the case represented “a profound breach of the defendant's word that he would protect information related to the security of the United States.”
“Who did he put at risk? I mean, you could make a list as long as a phone book,” Hennessy said, including military personnel, medical workers overseas and Ukrainian citizens.
The judge indicated that he found persuasive prosecutors' arguments that U.S. adversaries who might be interested in mining Teixeira for information could facilitate his escape.
“Foreign countries know that this defendant was disloyal to the United States," the judge said. “It doesn’t seem implausible at all that a foreign government would make an overture to this defendant to get information."
Teixeira appeared to show no emotion as he was lead out of the courtroom in handcuffs and orange jail clothes. He smiled at his father sitting in the front as he walked into the hearing in Worcester, Massachusetts, federal court.
Teixeira can appeal the judge's ruling, and Hennessy told him “another judge could come to a different conclusion." The judge said the support of Teixeira's family — who have attended every court hearing — is a compelling reason to release the man, but his concerns outweigh that.
In a statement after the hearing, Teixeira's family said it was disappointed with the outcome but “we realize there is a long road ahead of us all, and Jack’s wellbeing and safety is our priority right now. As a family, we are as committed as ever and remain steadfast and determined in our complete support of Jack as we continue to wade through this process.”
The high-profile case is being prosecuted by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office, whose leader — U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins — resigned on Friday after two federal watchdog agencies found she committed a slew of ethical and legal violations.
Teixeira has been behind bars since his April 13 arrest on charges, under the Espionage Act, of unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defense information. He has not yet entered a plea.
Prosecutors had urged the judge to keep Teixeira jailed, in part because of his arsenal of weapons and history of online statements, including one social media post from last November saying that, if he had his way, he would like to kill a “ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded.”
His lawyers had pressed the judge to release him to his father, saying he has no criminal history and strong family support to ensure he shows up in court. His lawyer said last month that he has “nowhere to flee” and “will answer the charges” against him.
Prosecutors have detailed a troubling history going back to high school, where Teixeira was suspended in 2018 when a classmate overheard him discussing Molotov cocktails and other weapons as well as racial threats. His initial application for a firearms identification card that same year was denied due to police concerns over those remarks.
He regularly made statements about violence and murder on social media, and also used his government computer to research past mass shootings and standoffs with federal agents, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said he also kept his gun locker within reach of his bed and in it were handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style high-capacity weapon and a gas mask.
Teixeira’s father told the judge that he removed all the guns from his home and would ensure that his son followed his pretrial conditions if he were released. Teixeira’s lawyer argued that despite the statements highlighted by prosecutors he was not a danger to the community or a flight risk.
Prosecutors revealed in court papers filed this week that Teixeira’s superiors had raised concerns in the months before his arrest about his mishandling of classified information.
He was twice admonished by superiors in September and October, and was again observed in February viewing information “that was not related to his primary duty and was related to the intelligence field,” according to internal Air National Guard memos filed in court.
The revelations have raised questions about why Teixeira continued to have access to military secrets after what prosecutors described as “concerning actions” related to his handling of classified information.
Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh was questioned Thursday about why Teixeira’s leaders did not take action after the concerns were raised. Singh referred to the Justice Department and Air Force investigations, and said those concerns and the potential lack of response to them were among the areas the inquiries would examine.
Tucker reported from Washington.
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