Smadi in Court
Cynthia Vega reports
DALLAS - Hosam Smadi, the 19-year-old Jordanian caught in an FBI sting trying to blow up a downtown Dallas skyscraper, pleaded not guilty to the charges during a 20-minute hearing in federal court Monday morning.
Smadi, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, appeared at 10 a.m. 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.
Before the judge could finish asking Smadi how he would plead to the two counts, he quickly said "not guilty" twice.
Judge Lynn set a tentative date of December 7 for Smadi's trial to begin. His lawyers, however, asked the judge to give them until at least April 1 to review evidence that had just been introduced.
"The government has given us a lot of documents and a lot of other materials," said defense lawyer Peter Fleury. "We've got a lot of work to do to sift through all of that."
Defense lawyers told the court that Smadi's brother, Husein, had been deposed in California last Thursday. Judge Lynn clarified that Smadi had signed a waiver for the brother to be questioned without him being present.
Husein Smadi remains in immigration custody as a material witness in California, where the brothers first lived when they came to the United States on temporary visas, which have since expired.
Monday's hearing was conducted primarily in English, although an Arabic translator was in the courtroom to help the defendant understand some words and terms.
"Anybody that knows a foreign language, there's going to be certain terms you don't know," Fleury said.
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 on Ross Avenue. 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 North Texas weeks before his arrest, he noticed his son was talking about religion and politics, topics he had not previously shown interest.
Smadi's brother, Husein, remains in immigration custody as a material witness in California, where the brothers first lived when they came to the United States on temporary visas, which have since expired.
WFAA-TV reporter Cynthia Vega and Dallas Morning News staff writer Jason Trahan contributed to this report.