|Hosam Maher Smadi allegedly tried to blow up a skyscraper.|
DALLAS - A Jordanian man accused of trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper with what he thought was a car bomb pleaded not guilty at his arraignment yesterday.
Hosam Maher Smadi, 19, told the judge, “I’m not guilty on both counts,’’ before she formally asked for his plea on one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of bombing a public place.
US District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn set a trial date of Dec. 7. But Smadi’s court-appointed lawyers said they plan to ask that the trial begin after March.
During the hearing, a court interpreter stood next to Smadi, speaking softly in Arabic. The teenager told the judge he studied English while attending a Baptist school in Jordan and understood some of what was said in court. Smadi also said he had an 11th-grade education.
Authorities arrested Smadi on Sept. 24 after he allegedly parked a truck in a garage beneath the 60-story Fountain Place office building in downtown Dallas. Once he was at a safe distance, Smadi dialed a cellphone he thought would ignite a bomb in the vehicle - but the device was actually a decoy provided by FBI agents posing as Al Qaeda operatives, according to the FBI.
The FBI says it had been keeping tabs on Smadi after discovering him on an extremist website earlier this year.
Investigators have said the teenager acted alone and was not affiliated with any terrorist organizations.
Smadi remains in federal custody. If convicted, he could face life in prison.