Alabama Teen Faces Terrorism Charges

December 23rd 2015

Alex Mierjeski

The case of an Alabama teenager with a low IQ accused of soliciting support for terrorism is in the headlines this week after a judge there refused to dismiss his case.

Peyton Pruitt has "the mind of a child," according to his family, with an IQ of between 52 and 58. But the 18-year-old has been held in a St. Clair County Jail for the past month after being charged in November for communicating with extremists overseas. Pruitt is accused of reading bomb-making instructions in an online al Qaeda magazine and using a school computer to access "the ISIS website."

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Peyton Pruitt in 2014

The case, which is now moving to a grand jury, has called up questions about how accountable Pruitt (and potentially others) should be held for sympathizing with terrorists.

According to AL.com, investigators said at a hearing on Tuesday Pruitt had communicated over the internet with people he believed were connected to the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the Taliban in Pakistan. He also allegedly told an FBI agent about links he had provided to encrypted information on making different types of improvised explosives, as well as suggesting potential targets for terrorist acts. That testimony was not based on any evidence, but rather from FBI transcripts, AL.com reported.

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Prosecutors said that they had "a sizable amount of information," and that Pruitt seemed cognizant in a videotaped statement.

But friends and family say the teenager, who reportedly sat silently, swaying from side to side during the hearing on Tuesday, is not even capable of tying his shoes, keeping bodily functions under control, or clearly distinguishing reality from fantasy, according to AL.com. Pruitt's father told the courtroom his son had previously said that "Allah is Jesus in Arabaric," to which he responded, "there is no such thing as Arabaric."

The Daily Beast notes that while more than 75 Americans have been arrested on charges relating to foreign terrorist organizations, including a number a teenagers charged as adults, Pruitt's developmental disability is potentially a first.

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On Tuesday, a judge in St. Clair County denied a motion to reduce Pruitt's $1 million bond, sending the case to grand jury.