Teen released from jail after found not guilty of assisting a terrorist

Image Credit: WIAT
Image Credit: WIAT

ASHVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — Tuesday was the day Peyton Pruitt’s family has been waiting on for a nearly a year.

The 19-year-old was released from the Saint Clair County Jail in Ashville, where he has spent nearly a year, following his arrest on charges that he communicated online with people he believed to be terrorists.

“It’s a daily nightmare, hoping to wake up and this was a nightmare. That’s how it’s been every day, but we woke up today,” said his father, Tony Pruitt.

Peyton was found not guilty of the charges of assisting a terrorist by reason of mental defect. Tests have revealed the teen has an IQ of about 50, and his family has compared his mental state to one of a person much younger, saying Peyton does not have the ability to distinguish reality from fiction and did not realize what he was doing was wrong.

Peyton went home, took a shower, and changed into a T-shirt reading “I Am Peyton,” emblazoned with his face, one his supporters have worn at rallies protesting his imprisonment.

“I feel bad for what I did and I’ll never touch another computer again,” Peyton said.

He is prohibited from using the Internet at home under the terms of his release. He is allowed to use one at school under adult supervision. He’ll also have court mandated visits. This is all part of the deal worked out between the court and Peyton’s attorneys after testing showed Peyton did not have the intellectual or mental ability to recognize his actions as wrong.

His attorney, James Gallini, says Peyton should never have been arrested in the first place.

“This is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. How does he get a year of his life back? We don’t know what the negative impact is yet. He’s been out for a few hours now. That is yet to be seen,” said Gallini.

Peyton’s father says the family did not realize today would be the day for Peyton’s homecoming until they received a call Tuesday morning.

“I was speechless. I didn’t know what to think. I don’t know how to express my gratitude,” said Tony Pruitt.

For his part, Peyton Pruitt told supporters that gathered to see him released that he wants to go home, spend time with family, eat some Mexican food, and go back to school. There’s good news there. His lawyer says he should be back in class on Thursday.