A week ago, Naser Almadaoji was a 19-year-old who lived in his family’s basement, played video games online and worked at Kroger, his family said.
On Tuesday, a federal judge in Dayton ruled that the Beavercreek teen must remain incarcerated while prosecutors pursue an accusation that Almadaoji tried to join an arm of ISIS.
Almadaoji has a pretrial hearing scheduled for Nov. 8 that would be canceled if he is federally indicted. The count of attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum 20 years in prison.
Almadaoji, an Iraqi-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, was taken into custody last week at the Columbus airport and charged in Dayton’s U.S District Court after he attempted to fly to Kazakhstan.
U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman said evidence shows Almadaoji’s plan was to be smuggled into Afghanistan and join ISIS Khorasan, an affiliate of ISIS in that country, to be trained.
Assistant U.S. attorney Dominick Gerace II said Almadaoji “pledged his allegiance” to the leader of ISIS. Gerace argued Tuesday that the charge — and the chance Almadaoji could cut away an ankle monitoring device — should lead to pretrial detention.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Newman agreed, saying he was not “comfortable” with the risk but that he may have been acting “in an abundance of caution.”
Defense attorney James Fleisher argued that the only actions his client took were translating a document, getting money from people who actually were FBI agents, buying a plane ticket and driving to an airport. Fleisher said his client worked at Kroger.
“He’s a 19-year-old who was saying things to law enforcement rather than doing things,” Fleisher said, adding that his client made “puffery-type statements.”
Fleisher said Almadaoji has no weapons, no criminal record as an adult and no history of violence. He said his client’s passport was seized and Almadaoji could be electronically monitored without internet access in his family’s home.
Almadaoji’s sister, Bashaaer, a Wright State University student with a double major, testified that her brother was “a real good kid” who kept to himself, did his chores and was interested in studying mechanical engineering. She said her brother played video games online and texted friends.
Bashaaer said, like her, Naser attended Beavercreek High School but then turned to online schooling. She said family knew of the defendant’s trip to Egypt and Jordan to visit family earlier in 2018.
Bashaaer said her family didn’t know of her brother’s travel plans to Kazakhstan. Bashaaer and Fleisher declined comment after Tuesday’s hearing.