“Sophomoric behavior” is what federal Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey called the actions of fake feds Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali in their court appearance this afternoon. The two men are accused of impersonating DHS officers, and they allegedly dangled exorbitant perks—like luxury apartments and iPhones—to ingratiate themselves with US Secret Service employees.
In denying federal prosecutors’ request to keep Taherzadeh and Ali in federal custody pending trial, Harvey argued that the government did not provide enough evidence that the men’s behavior was “the sort of serious, dangerous conduct” that merits pretrial detention. In other words, the judge does not believe that these men are connected to foreign intelligence (as Taherzadeh allegedly claimed), nor that they are a risk to national security. One point in their favor: They apparently didn’t pay rent, a fact Harvey said would be unlikely had they been foreign agents.
Harvey also didn’t believe the government’s concern that the men might flee. At 9 AM tomorrow, Taherzadeh and Ali will be released into the custody of their fathers in Virginia unless the government appeals.
Their most egregious conduct, Harvey said, was Taherzadeh shooting a Secret Service member with an airsoft gun as part of what he claimed was a DHS recruitment process—behavior the judge described as “not good.” But an airsoft gun is not a real gun, he pointed out, and while Taherzadeh is alleged to have had real guns, he is not charged with any firearms violations—the gun he allegedly had outside of his apartment was apparently registered, and there’s no allegation that he brandished it.
While many grave insinuations have flown around this case—from espionage to surveilling private citizens in their luxury Navy Yard apartment building—Harvey seemed compelled by an explanation that Haider Ali gave in an interview with FBI: that the two men “just wanted to feel like they were on the same level as the real federal agents.” For this, the men face a maximum of three years in prison.