SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California man charged with attempting to travel to Syria to fight alongside an al Qaeda splinter group was denied a request to be put under house arrest while he awaits trial, a federal judge in California ruled on Tuesday.
Nicholas Teausant, a 20-year-old American citizen, was arrested on terrorism charges in March as he approached the Canadian border.
In early May, a magistrate judge approved a request by Teausant’s lawyer Benjamin Galloway to put Teausant on house arrest while he awaited trial, with bail set at $200,000. Teausant’s paternal grandparents, who are 66 and 71 years old, would have served as his guardians under the plan.
But federal prosecutors requested that a district judge review the request.
In his ruling on Tuesday, District Judge John Mendez said Teausant had a history of lying that could put the public at risk and expressed his concern that Teausant’s grandparents were ill-equipped to act as the man’s “jailors.”
“It’s unfair to put that burden on them,” Mendez said. “He’s never lived with them and can easily take advantage of them.”
Galloway argued that a psychiatric risk assessment proved Teausant was not a danger to society, but Mendez said the assessment was insufficient because it did not take into account Teausant’s tendency to lie.
Prosecutors contend Teausant said he wanted to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, to fight the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, which is battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war.
“I‘m going to be a commander and I‘m going to be on the front of every single newspaper in the country,” the criminal complaint quoted Teausant as telling a paid FBI informant in February. “Like I want my face on FBI’s top 12 most wanted. Because that means I‘m doing something right.”
Teausant, who faces a maximum of 15 years in prison if he is convicted, also spoke of wanting to target the subway system in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, according to the complaint.
Reporting by Jennifer Chaussee; Editing by Edith Honan and Lisa Shumaker