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By Tim McLaughlin and Sarah N. Lynch

U.S. military leak suspect appears in court; had arsenal, prosecutors say

FILE PHOTO: Jack Douglas Teixeira, a U.S. Air Force National Guard airman accused of leaking highly classified military intelligence records online, appears wearing an orange jumpsuit, where the judge accepted his request to waive his right to a preliminary hearing in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. April 19, 2023 in a courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Margaret Small.

A U.S. Air National Guardsman accused of leaking military secrets appeared in federal court on Thursday, where a judge expressed concern the 21-year-old's knowledge of classified material might be valuable to a foreign government.

"Some of the information he" is accused of taking "he actually copied," U.S. Magistrate David Hennessy said. "If I write something, I’m going to remember it reasonably well."

Hennessy, however, declined to rule on whether Jack Douglas Teixeira should be released into the custody of his father pending his criminal trial.

Hennessy took the matter under advisement and ordered the court into recess after listening to arguments for and against Teixeira's continued detention in federal custody. The hearing lasted more than an hour in the U.S. District Court in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Teixeira was arrested by the FBI on April 13 at his home in Massachusetts and charged with violating the Espionage Act.

Nadine Pellegrini, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the judge it would be hard to imagine that Teixeira would not seek to make himself available to others who want the secret information he is accused of stealing.

Prosecutors say Teixeira leaked classified documents, including some relating to troop movements in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to a group of gamers on the messaging app Discord.

In a filing late on Wednesday, they said he had destroyed evidence in the case and they also pointed to his history of making violent threats online, saying he should be detained pending trial because he is a flight risk and poses a threat.

Teixeira, who lived with his mother and stepfather, kept a gun locker two feet from his bed, which contained handguns, bolt-action rifles and a military-style rifle with a high-capacity magazine, according to the government's filing.

FBI agents also found a gas mask, ammunition and what appeared to be a "silencer-style accessory in his desk drawer," the government said.

But Teixeira's defense lawyer, Brendan Kelley, said his client had broken no firearms laws and that the weapons were responsibly stored and locked.

Kelley drew a scoff from the judge when he suggested that his client is only being accused of sharing classified information with a small group of people on the internet.

"Seriously?" Hennessy asked incredulously, adding that anyone under the age of 30 would know that putting something on the internet means it could end up all over the world.

Before the hearing on Thursday, Teixeira's attorneys said in a court filing they opposed pretrial detention, and asked the judge to let him go home to the custody of his father. They offered to have him post a bond of $20,000 and wear a location monitoring device, and said he could be prohibited from using the internet without parental supervision.

Teixeira's father took the stand at the start of the hearing and said he would have no problem reporting his son if he violated the terms of a custody arrangement.

Jack Michael Teixeira said he formerly worked as a corrections officer. But his current job is more than an hour away from where his son would stay pending trial.

Prosecutors, in a court filing on Wednesday night, revealed that Teixeira was suspended from high school after he was overheard making racial threats and remarks about guns. Teixeira attributed those remarks to a reference in a video game, according to prosecutors.

More recently, in November 2022, Teixeira said if he had his way, he would “kill a [expletive] ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded,” prosecutors alleged in documents supporting their motion to detain Teixeira.

His attorneys sought to downplay the high school incident, saying it was "thoroughly investigated" and that he was allowed to return to school after a psychiatric evaluation.

"The investigation was fully known and vetted by the Air National Guard prior to enlisting and also when he obtained his top-secret security clearance," they added.

In court, Kelley said Teixeira proved he was not a flight risk because he did not try to run when heavily armed FBI agents came to arrest him. Instead, Kelley recounted, Teixeira sat on his mom's porch and read the Bible. 

(This story has been refiled to say 'appears in court,' not 'to appear,' in the headline)

(Reporting By Tim McLaughlin in Worcester and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

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