Lawyers argue Teixeira should be released ahead of trial, much like former US President Trump was in his classified documents case.
A Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking secret military papers has challenged a judge’s decision for him to remain behind bars, pointing to the pretrial release of former United States President Donald Trump and others charged in high-profile classified documents cases.
A magistrate judge ruled in May that Jack Teixeira, 21, must remain in custody while his case plays out. In his ruling, the judge found Teixeira may pose a flight risk or obstruct justice. Teixeira’s lawyers are now asking a different judge to reverse that decision.
In court papers filed on Monday, the defence lawyers argued that Teixeira has no financial ability or incentive to flee and claimed the government “greatly over-exaggerates Mr Teixeira’s risk to national security”.
Teixeira’s lawyers noted that prosecutors did not seek to detain Trump –– or his co-defendant in the federal classified documents case, Walt Nauta — even though the former president and his valet “possess extraordinary means to flee the United States”.
“Former President Trump and The Trump Organization own properties in multiple foreign countries, and former President Trump has access to a private plane. Yet, the risk of flight posed by their knowledge of national security information, and their abnormal ability to flee, didn’t even result in a request that either surrender their passport,” Teixeira’s lawyers wrote.
They argued the “disparate approach” in these cases shows that the government’s arguments for keeping Teixeira in detention are “illusory”. Both Teixeira and Trump have been charged under the Espionage Act.
Teixeira pleaded not guilty last month to six counts of wilful retention and transmission of national defence information. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Trump has also pleaded not guilty to dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and refusing government demands to give them back.
While Trump was not required to surrender a passport — with prosecutors saying he was not considered a flight risk — a judge directed the former president to not discuss the case with certain witnesses.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and attacked the prosecution as politically motivated.
Teixeira has been behind bars since his April arrest on charges stemming from the most consequential intelligence leak in years.
His lawyers have suggested he be released to his father and largely confined to his home with location monitoring and no access to the internet.
Teixeira is accused of sharing classified military documents about Russia’s war in Ukraine and other sensitive national security topics on Discord, a social media platform popular with online gamers.
Authorities say Teixeira, who enlisted in the Air National Guard in 2019, began sharing military secrets with other Discord users around January. He first typed out classified documents and then started sharing photographs of files that bore “secret” and “top secret” markings.
Teixeira worked as a “cyber transport systems specialist” — essentially an IT specialist responsible for military communications networks.
Authorities have provided few details about an alleged possible motive, but those in the online private chat group where the documents were disclosed have depicted Teixeira as motivated more by bravado than ideology.
The judge’s decision to detain Teixeira came after Justice Department lawyers revealed in court filings a history of disturbing online remarks.
He wrote in November that he would “kill a [expletive] ton of people” if he had his way, because it would be “culling the weak minded”.
Prosecutors also argued he said he may still have material that has not been released, which could be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states that could offer him safe harbor and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States”.
Teixeira’s lawyers wrote that there is no evidence their client “ever carried his online conversations into reality or ever endangered any person in his community”.
They also said there is no evidence to suggest that Teixeira is so valuable that a foreign adversary would be willing to smuggle him out of the country.