(Updates with judge’s comment in third paragraph.)
Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- A Massachusetts man pleaded not guilty to charges that he plotted to bomb the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon using remote-controlled aircraft.
Rezwan Ferdaus, 26, will be held without bail until a hearing on Oct. 20 to consider whether he should be released while awaiting trial and requirements for bail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Hillman said at a plea hearing today in federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“This is obviously a complicated case,” Hillman said. “There is a great deal of fact counsel has to assimilate. I am going to push the detention hearing to Oct. 20.”
The charges include attempting to damage and destroy a federal building and national defense premises, attempting to provide material support to terrorists and a designated foreign terrorists organization and receipt of explosive materials and nonregistered firearms.
Ferdaus, a graduate of Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in physics, designed and built detonation devices for plastic explosives using mobile phones, according to his indictment last week in Boston.
The defendant supplied 12 mobile phones modified to act as switches for the explosives to undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agents he thought worked for al-Qaeda, according to the indictment. He allegedly told the agents he planned to fly two aircraft into the Pentagon and one into the Capitol.
“I want to totally destroy and take out the enemy and kill as many kafir as possible,” Ferdaus told the agents, using the Arabic term for nonbelievers, according to court papers. “Imagine if our brothers could set off 20 phones at a time.”
Ferdaus performed surveillance in Washington, ordered remote-controlled aircraft from a Florida distributor and rented a storage unit in Framingham, Massachusetts, the indictment alleges. After the agents delivered three grenades, six assault rifles and what he believed were 25 pounds of plastic explosives, he locked the materials in the storage facility and was arrested, prosecutors said.
“This case was orchestrated and facilitated by the government,” Ferdaus’s lawyer, Catherine Byrne, told reporters after the hearing. “We’ve asked for a continuance in order to prepare.”
The hearing lasted less than 10 minutes. Members of Ferdaus’s family were present. His mother collapsed into the arms of family members after the proceeding and had to be helped out of the courtroom.
The family declined to comment to reporters.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Seigmann said during the hearing that the maximum penalty if Ferdaus is convicted of all six counts is 100 years in prison and $1.2 million in fines.
Ferdaus is a resident of Ashland, Massachusetts. He used the alias Dave Winfield, the name of a former New York Yankee ballplayer, when he bought the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the indictment.
The case is U.S. v. Ferdaus, 11-10331, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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