Moments ago, U.S. Magistrate Judge Irma Ramirez ruled that there's probable cause to try 19-year-old Jordanian Hosam Maher Smadi for allegedly trying to blow up Fountain Place in downtown Dallas almost two weeks ago. Smadi, slight and impassive in his orange jumpsuit, was solemn as he listened to an Arabic interpreter translate the proceedings in a low whisper. The teenager, who entered the country on a tourist visa in 2007 and was working at a gas station and barbecue joint in Italy at the time of his arrest, stared straight ahead and occasionally took notes while an FBI special agent took the stand and explained why the agency believed he was intent on committing a terrorist act.
"Postings made by Smadi in an Internet chat room indicated he was intending to commit a terrorist act on U.S. soil," FBI Special Agent Thomas Petrowski testified. "Mr. Smadi stood out because he indicated that he was on U.S. soil and wished to commit an act of terrorism here ... that the only thing he lacked was the tools."
Petrowski also said that the teenager, who friends have described to reporters as a nice guy who helped his neighbors and loved to dance to techno music, did "extensive research, reconnaissance, downloaded photos and sent those to [under cover agents], believing we were an Al Qaeda sleeper cell." Smadi planned to attack various targets but eventually settled on Fountain Place, the agent testified. And before he agreed to park a car bomb underneath the skyscraper and detonate it remotely using a cell phone, the teenager met with an undercover agent and recorded a 7-minute video that he believed would be transmitted to Osama bin Laden.
During the sting operation, Smadi grew concerned that he may not have parked the car with the inert bomb squarely under the middle of the building. He said he wanted to go back and move it to ensure that the building was entirely destroyed.
Petrowski also said Smadi is not connected in any way to the "local mainstream Muslim community" and that he's a "lone offender" unrelated to the other terrorist suspects arrested in recent weeks.
Smadi's lawyer, Peter Fleury, an assistant federal public defender in the Federal Public Defender's Office in Fort Worth, seemed to be trying to make a case for entrapment, asking whether Smadi had belonged to a terrorist organization in the past (he didn't) and whether the undercover agents bought him cigarettes or meals (they did).
Judge Ramirez sided with prosecutors, though, saying "the court finds there's probable cause to believe this defendant committed the crime outlined in the affidavit."
No further dates have been set.
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