A judge is poised to decide Friday whether a Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking highly classified military documents will remain behind bars while he awaits trial.
Jack Teixeira returned to federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, where a magistrate judge is expected to hear arguments on prosecutors’ request to keep the 21-year-old locked up before issuing his ruling. Teixeira, wearing orange jail clothes, smiled at his father in the front row as he was led into the courtroom ahead of the afternoon hearing.
Teixeira, who faces charges under the Espionage Act, is accused of sharing secret military documents about Russia’s war in Ukraine and other top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
Prosecutors said in court papers filed this week that Teixeira was caught by superiors months before his April arrest taking notes on classified information or viewing intelligence not related to his job.
He was twice admonished by superiors in September and October, and 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 potential lack of response to them were areas the inquiries would examine.
Teixeira has been in jail since his arrest last month on charges stemming from the most consequential intelligence leak in years.
Magistrate Judge David Hennessy heard arguments on detention from lawyers late last month, but put off an immediate decision and scheduled a second hearing for Friday. The judge has said he expects to rule Friday.
The high-profile case is being prosecuted by the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office, whose leader — U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins — is expected to resign by the end of the day Friday after two federal watchdog agencies found she committed a slew of ethical and legal violations.
Teixeira has not yet entered a plea. His lawyers are urging the judge to release Teixeira to his father’s home, noting he didn’t flee when media outlets began publishing his name shortly before his April 13 arrest. His lawyer told the judge last month that Teixeira “will answer the charges” and “will be judged by his fellow citizens.”
Teixeira’s lawyers noted in court papers this week there have been many Espionage Act cases in which courts have approved release or the government did not seek to keep the person behind bars pretrial.
During last month’s hearing, prosecutors told the judge that Teixeira kept an arsenal of weapons before his arrest and had a history of violent and disturbing remarks.
Teixeira frequently had online discussions about violence, saying in one November message that he would “kill a (expletive) ton of people” if he had his way, because it would be “culling the weak minded,” according to prosecutors. Years earlier in high school, he was suspended when a classmate overheard him discussing Molotov cocktails and other weapons as well as racial threats, prosecutors said.
The Justice Department said Teixeira used his government computer in July to look up mass shootings and government standoffs, including the terms “Ruby Ridge,” “Las Vegas shooting,” “Mandalay Bay shooting,” “Uvalde” and “Buffalo tops shooting” — an apparent reference to the 2022 racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.
Investigators believe Teixeira was the leader of an online private chat group on Discord called Thug Shaker Central, which drew roughly two dozen enthusiasts who talked about their favorite types of guns and shared memes and jokes. The group also held a running discussion on wars that included talk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The leaked documents appear to detail U.S. and NATO aid to Ukraine and U.S. intelligence assessments regarding U.S. allies that could strain ties with those nations. Some show real-time details from February and March of Ukraine’s and Russia’s battlefield positions and precise numbers of battlefield gear lost and newly flowing into Ukraine from its allies.