DALLAS – A Jordanian man accused of trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper with what he thought was a car bomb pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Monday.
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 of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of bombing a public place.
U.S. District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn set a trial date of Dec. 7. But Smadi's court-appointed attorneys said they plan to ask that the trial begin sometime 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, who wore an orange prison-issued jumpsuit, 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 cell phone he thought would ignite a bomb in the vehicle — but the device was actually a decoy provided by FBI agents posing as al-Qaida operatives, according to the FBI.
The FBI says it had been keeping tabs on Smadi after discovering him on an extremist Web site earlier this year. Investigators have said the teenager acted alone and was not affiliated with any terrorist organizations.
Friends and acquaintances say Smadi moved from Santa Clara, California, to the small town of Italy, Texas, near Dallas in 2008. He came to the U.S. in 2007 after his mother died in Jordan, friends and family said.
Defense attorneys questioned his younger brother, Husein Smadi, under oath in California last week after a judge ordered that he be held as a material witness in the case. Husein Smadi, 18, who had been living in the Silicon Valley area, was arrested for possession of methamphatemine in Northern California's Santa Clara County and taken into immigration custody on the same day his brother was arrested in Dallas.
Husein Smadi pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
In Jordan, their father, Maher Hussein Smadi, has insisted his older son is innocent in the alleged bomb plot.
Hosam Smadi remains in federal custody. If convicted, he could face life in prison.