WACO, Texas – After pleading not guilty Thursday to six new charges alleging that he intended to blow up a restaurant full of Fort Hood troops, a handcuffed soldier tossed a rolled-up paper toward courtroom seats before his attorney quickly grabbed it.
"Press release," Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo said before tossing the piece of paper as he was being led in shackles out of the federal courtroom in Waco. It's unclear what, if anything, was written on the paper, and there is a gag order preventing attorneys from discussing the case publicly.
Earlier, Abdo answered "sure do" when U.S. Magistrate Jeff Manske asked if he understood the charges, and said "sure do have none" when asked if he had questions about the charges. Before the hearing started, Abdo turned around frequently in his seat at the defense table and smiled at the members of the media seated in the courtroom gallery, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
He was arrested in July at a Killeen motel a few miles from the Texas Army post. Abdo, who was AWOL from Kentucky's Fort Campbell, planned to detonate two bombs in a restaurant full of Fort Hood soldiers and then shoot anyone who survived, authorities allege.
Abdo was indicted on three federal charges in August and six others last week, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. That charge carries a maximum life sentence.
Prosecutors have said they plan to try Abdo first on the new charges, which carry longer possible prison terms. They include attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a federal crime of violence, and two counts of possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
After Abdo's arrest, investigators said they found a handgun, an article entitled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom," and the ingredients for an explosive device, including gunpowder, shrapnel and pressure cookers. An article with that title appears in an Al Qaeda magazine. He told authorities he planned to make two bombs and detonate them in a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers, according to documents filed in the case.
At his first court appearance the day after his arrest, a defiant Abdo shouted "Nidal Hasan, Fort Hood 2009!" as he was led out of the Waco courtroom, an apparent homage to the suspect in the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation.
But Abdo had spoken out against the Fort Hood shooting rampage last year as he made a public plea to be granted conscientious objector status, earlier citing his Muslim beliefs to avoid serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Abdo, 21, later was approved as a conscientious objector, but that status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography. He went absent without leave from Fort Campbell in early July.
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist whose trial is set for March at Fort Hood, faces the death penalty or life in prison if convicted of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder.