DALLAS — Hosam Smadi, the 19-year-old Jordanian caught in an FBI sting trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper, pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court.
He appeared before U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing of a place of public use.
Peter Fleury, one of Smadi’s court-appointed attorneys, said after Monday’s hearing that “this is just the beginning of the process. The government has given us a lot of material to sift through. We have a lot of work to do.”
He said the defense deposed Smadi’s younger brother, Husein, late last week. Husein Smadi is being held in immigration custody in California as a material witness and is set to be deported to Jordan.
Lynn asked Hosam Smadi, who was accompanied by an Arabic interpreter, if he understood English, and Smadi indicated that he mostly did. “I speak a little,” said Smadi, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, blue canvas shoes and leg shackles.
Lynn had federal prosecutor Dayle Elieson read the two count indictment in court, and the interpreter, standing beside Smadi, translated her words for him just to make sure he understood the charges.
Smadi told the judge that he had completed 11th grade in Jordan, and that he came to the U.S. “to study.” She asked he could write and read in English, and he replied, “some.”
She also asked routine questions such as whether Smadi was under the care of a doctor or was taking any medications. He said no to both.
She set a trial date of Dec. 7, but defense attorneys told her they planned to file paperwork asking for the date to be pushed until after March so that they have time to prepare.
Smadi, who had been living in Italy, Texas, and working at a roadside barbecue restaurant, was arrested on Sept. 24. According to the government, he tried to detonate what he thought was a truck bomb — it was a fake, provided by the FBI — in the parking garage under the 60-story Fountain Place office tower in Dallas. Court documents portray Smadi as a would-be Islamic terrorist bent on waging a holy war on Americans.
According to an FBI affidavit, agents learned of Smadi months ago through their monitoring of extremist Web sites. He was approached by undercover agents pretending to be terrorists themselves.
Smadi told them that he wanted to “bring down” the office tower, which houses a Wells Fargo bank branch and several commercial enterprises, the affidavit says. He is quoted in it saying that blowing up the building would “shake the currently weak economy in the state and the American nation.” In addition, he is quoted as saying there would be “psychological impacts for the loss of this beautiful building.”
Smadi’s father in Jordan has said that when he visited his son in Texas weeks before his arrest, he noticed his son was talking about religion and politics, topics he had not previously shown interest.
Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.