Watch CBS News

Jack Teixeira, accused Pentagon leaker, should stay in jail before trial, Justice Dept. argues

Accused Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira should stay in jail before trial, DOJ argues
Accused Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira should stay in jail before trial, DOJ argues 02:29

WORCESTER - Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents, appeared in federal court Thursday as prosecutors say he needs to stay in jail.

The Justice Department filed papers late Wednesday, presenting several reasons why the 21-year-old from Dighton should not be released to the custody of his father before his trial. He had a detention hearing Thursday afternoon in Worcester.

Jack Teixeira
Jack Teixeira. Facebook

In the memo, federal prosecutors said Teixeira faces 25 years in prison and "potentially far more," hinting that he may face additional charges. The lengthy potential maximum sentence could make him a significant flight risk, prosecutors argue, and the value of the information he obtained — as well as his low current net worth of about $19,000 — could make him vulnerable to offers from countries unfriendly to the U.S.

"He accessed and may still have access to a trove of classified information that would be of tremendous value to hostile nation states that could offer him safe harbor and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States," the memo said.

The Justice Department warned that if released, Teixeira could pose an even greater threat now that his identity is known. 

"Those same adversaries have every incentive to contact the Defendant, to seek additional information he may have physical access to or knowledge of, and to provide him with the means to help him flee the country in return for that information."

Teixeira's public defenders responded to the government's filing Thursday morning and urged the court to release him on bail, arguing the Justice Department's memo includes "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." 

The defense said the argument for his detention is "illusory" and highlighted his lack of a criminal history.

"If the government's fears about Mr. Teixeira's intent to flee are to be believed, then he would have done so at the time he became aware of the public reports. Mr. Teixeira made no attempt to flee, even after being publicly named as a suspect. Instead, he sat on his mother's porch reading a bible in his uniform-compliant undershirt, awaiting the arrival of law enforcement," Teixeira's attorneys Allen Franco and Brendan Kelley wrote in their memorandum.

Jack Teixeira was taken into custody outside his mother's home in Dighton, April 13, 2023. CBS Boston

In the government's memo, prosecutors said investigators found evidence that Teixeira attempted to thwart the investigation into his alleged leaks. The filing includes samples of some of the more than 40,000 messages they said Teixeira sent on the messaging platform Discord - many about the allegedly leaked documents.

In March, he offered information to users in his group on Discord, according to a chat found by investigators and included in the government's filing.

Government exhibit

Investigators also captured conversations that showed Teixeira instructing others in the Discord group to "delete all messages." 

"[i]f anyone comes looking, don't tell them sh**," he allegedly wrote to one user. And he told another, "Try to delete all my messages in civil discussions." He came up with one plan to have a Discord user invite him to a chat and then ban Teixeira and use the "option to delete all my messages." The user informed him, "it only goes to past 7 days." Teixeira responded with a profanity.

When investigators arrived at his mother's home earlier this month, they found a tablet, laptop and Xbox smashed in his trash, the filing said. The FBI also found a gun locker where multiple weapons, including handguns, rifles, shotguns and high-capacity weapons were stored "two feet" from his bed, the filing said.

The court documents included several photos of that evidence.

Jack Teixeira's room at his mother's and stepfather's home in North Dighton, Massachusetts Government exhibit

While the prosecution's filing describes finding real weapons, the ones in the picture above have orange tips, and according to the defense filing, are "airsoft" guns, which are not considered to be firearms.

The prosecution filing revealed that Teixeira was suspended from high school in 2018 after a classmate heard him talking about weapons and Molotov cocktails. He claimed they were references to a video game, but when he applied for a firearms identification card that same year, he was rejected because of those remarks. He applied again in 2019 and was again denied the permit. In 2020, he argued that the position of trust he held with the U.S. government qualified him to possess a gun.

Teixeira also allegedly posted violent rhetoric online. The detention memo notes that last November, he wrote that if he had his way, he would "kill a [expletive] ton of people" because it would be "culling the weak minded." 

Earlier this year, in February, he allegedly told a user that he was tempted to make a type of minivan into an "assassination van."

In July 2022, using his government computer, investigators say he searched numerous terms associated with mass shooting, including "uvalde." 

According to the government's memo, beginning in February 2022, Teixeira had access to "hundreds of classified documents containing national defense information that had no bearing on his role as essentially an information technology ("IT") support specialist." 

In the Discord group, investigators say, he acknowledged on multiple occasions that he posted classified material and even asked other members what they wanted him to post. 

In March, he allegedly told the group he would no longer share classified materials and in April, he reemerged with a different username, encouraging others to delete messages. 

The filing also contains numerous agreements Teixiera signed about his job at the Air National Guard, FBI affidavits, and pictures of his room.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Air Force said it had temporarily suspended two leaders of the unit where Teixeira worked.

His defense attorneys argued there are multiple ways to ensure Teixeira doesn't flee or tamper with witnesses or evidence, including location monitoring, restricting his access to internet and a $20,000 bond.

"The government's allegations in its filings on the evening of April 26, 2023, offer no support that Mr. Teixeira currently, or ever, intended any information purportedly to the private social media server to be widely disseminated," they argue, blaming another user in the Discord group for spreading in the information. "Thus, its argument that Mr. Teixeira will continue to release information or destroy evidence if not detained rings hollow."

Teixeira, his attorneys argued, no longer has access to any classified records and does not pose a flight risk as a lifelong Massachusetts resident.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.