Dighton airman accused of leak had a weapons cache and is a flight risk, feds say
Federal prosecutors say the Dighton Air National Guardsman accused of leaking top secret documents had a cache of weapons at his home and should remain in custody to avoid the risk of enemy governments targeting him for access to U.S. intelligence.
Jack Teixeira is being held in jail while he awaits trial on charges under the Espionage Act. In a court filing, prosecutors said the low-income 21-year-old facing up to 25 years in prison could be tempted — and aided — by foreign adversaries to flee the country. They also suspect he may have more secret documents that have not yet been made public.
"He has an enormous incentive to flee, and there are numerous adversaries of the United States that could provide him the means to do so," prosecutors wrote in their motion for pretrial detention.
Teixeira was arrested at home two weeks ago. He is due to appear in federal court in Worcester on Thursday for a hearing on his further detention.
The prosecution's motion details a "virtual arsenal of weapons" investigators found when they searched Teixeira's home, where he lived with his mother and stepfather. Within arm's reach of his bed, Teixeira had a gun locker filled with handguns, bolt-action rifles and an assault-style weapon. There was ammunition on his dresser and a silencer in a desk drawer.
Half of Teixeira's $19,000 net worth is tied to the value of his guns, according to the filing.
Teixeira is accused of accessing top secret records for more than a year through his job with the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod. Investigators say he posted documents containing details on the war in Ukraine and U.S. spy operations in a private message group; from there, they spread onto more public social media sites.
New details of Teixeira's past behavior emerged in the court filings. Teixeira spoke of violent fantasies to friends online, an FBI agent detailed in an affidavit. He told them he wanted to “kill a f— ton of people,” in what he called “culling the weak minded.” And he wondered about turning an SUV or van into an “assassination vehicle.”
After the Teixeira leaks became public, prosecutors wrote, Teixeira began trying to cover his tracks. He got a new cellphone and deleted messages in online chats. He told fellow users "if anyone comes looking don't tell them s—t."
When searching Teixeira's home, authorities found a tablet, laptop and gaming console, all smashed in a dumpster.
Prosecutors wrote of concerning behavior by Teixeira long before the leaks. In 2018, as a 16-year-old high school student, he was suspended when a classmate overhead him making comments about weapons and racial threats. A police report detailing the incident was filed under seal.
Because of that suspension, the Dighton police twice denied Teixeira a license to carry a firearm. But by 2020, Teixeira had joined the Air National Guard, and cited his work there as evidence of his maturity and changed behavior.
Teixeira wrote in a letter to the department that wearing a uniform, and having a top secret clearance, meant more responsibility.
"I now represent much more than myself," he wrote, "and need to watch what I say and do both in public and private, as it affects more than just myself."
In a brief, defense attorneys pushed back against the federal prosecutors' assessment of Teixeira as a serious flight risk, arguing that they “exaggerated” his potential as a recruit for a foreign adversary.
“The government’s supplemental motion for detention … in many respects engages in hyperbolic judgements and provides little more than speculation that a foreign adversary will seduce Mr. Teixeira and orchestrate his clandestine escape from the United States,” defense attorneys wrote. “This argument is illusory.”
They say there are options for releasing him under monitoring, including banning him from using the internet and confining him to his residence. The Air Force has also designated a senior master sergeant to maintain regular contact with Teixeira, they added.
Defense attorneys want Teixeira to be released to his father, who they say spent 17 years as a correctional officer at the Bridgewater Correctional Center. They said Teixeira made no attempts to flee, even after his name was made public.
"Instead, he sat on his mother's porch reading a bible in his uniform-compliant undershirt, awaiting the arrival of law enforcement," they said, attaching news helicopter images of Teixeira.
But prosecutors will make a case Thursday to keep Teixeira in custody. They alluded to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who a decade ago leaked secret files on U.S. domestic surveillance and then fled to Russia. President Vladimir Putin last year granted Snowden citizenship in Russia.
Two commanders in the unit where Teixeira worked are suspended while the Air Force investigates. And the 102nd has been temporarily stripped of its intelligence mission. The Air Force has said it also is reinforcing security measures across its units after the leak.
The story was updated to include information from the defense attorneys.
This article was originally published on April 27, 2023.