SANTA ANA, Calif. – A state prison inmate accused of masterminding a terrorism plot against U.S. military sites and other targets appeared Monday before a federal judge who entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf.
Kevin James (search), 29, was ordered held without bail on charges of conspiracy to levy war against the United States through terrorism and conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence.
U.S. District Judge Marc L. Goldman set a tentative trial date of Nov. 22.
James, an inmate at California State Prison, Sacramento, was represented by court-appointed attorney Robert Carlin. Shackled, James said nothing during the five-minute proceeding.
If convicted, James faces up to life in prison, said U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek (search).
Prosecutors allege that while imprisoned for attempted robbery, James founded an organization based on a radical interpretation of Islam and preached to recruits that it was their duty to attack "infidels" including the U.S. government and supporters of Israel.
The indictment alleges that the conspiracy targeted domestic U.S. military sites, Israeli facilities in the Los Angeles area including the local consulate and an El Al airline (search) counter, and synagogues. James was named in two of the seven counts. Three other men named in the indictment pleaded not guilty in earlier proceedings.
James' public defender, Robert Carlin, said his client was "surprised and shocked" to learn that the government believes he orchestrated a terror plot.
Carlin said he reviewed the indictment with James on Friday after the defendant was brought from Sacramento to Santa Ana.
"I think he's very concerned," Carlin said. "But an indictment is pretty worthless. It's just a series of accusations the government makes having gone before the grand jury."
Carlin said James would probably be transferred to Los Angeles until his trial date. Carlin said that before the current charges were filed James had been up for parole early next year.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Smith told reporters he had little to add to what was already in the indictment, which accuses James of providing "spiritual and tactical guidance, and support" to the other defendants, Levar Haley Washington, 25, Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21, and Hammad Riaz Samana, 21.
Washington was formerly a state prison inmate and Patterson was formerly a student at California State University, Northridge. Samana has been identified as a former student from Pakistan.
Authorities have said local police agencies uncovered the alleged plot while investigating a string of gas station robberies they believe were intended to finance the scheme.