Judge Says Dallas Bomb Plot Case to Proceed
October 5, 2009There is enough evidence for prosecutors to continue their case against a Jordanian teenager accused of trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper with what he believed to be a car bomb, a judge ruled Monday.
The ruling came after a brief probable-cause hearing for Hosam Maher Smadi, 19, who is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.
FBI Special Agent Tom Petrowski, who oversaw the investigation, testified at the hearing that Smadi had researched how to use a cell phone to detonate a bomb and made a 7-minute video he believed would be transmitted to Osama bin Laden. Petrowski also said Smadi indicated he was concerned that he had not parked a vehicle, which he believed had a car bomb, in a way that would destroy the entire structure.
No dates have been set for a trial or any preliminary hearings.
On Sept. 24, Smadi parked a truck he believed held a live bomb in the garage underneath the 60-story Fountain Place office building, authorities said. Later, he allegedly sat in a car at a safe distance from the Dallas tower and dialed a cell phone he thought would ignite a blast.
An FBI agent who infiltrated an online group of extremists discovered Smadi. Officials say he stood out because he seemed intent on conducting terror attacks in the U.S.
Two other undercover agents posed as al-Qaida sleeper cell members and communicated with Smadi. During that time, agents said Smadi continued reiterating his intention to carry out a terrorist attack.
"By God who created me, there will not be a retreat at all, even if they take me to Guantanamo for the rest of my life," the FBI said Smadi told an undercover agent in Arabic on March 19.
Investigators have determined that Smadi acted alone and was not affiliated with any terrorist organizations.
Peter Fleury, one of Smadi's attorneys, said after the hearing that the defense still doesn't have much information in the case. Prosecutors don't have to turn over a lot of the evidence until Smadi's indicted, he said.
"We have got a lot of work to do," he said. "We've got a scared 19-year-old."
Jordan's government has been following the case and remains in contact with U.S. authorities about it, Jordanian Embassy spokeswoman Merissa Khurma said. Smadi is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
In Jordan, Smadi's father has said the family does not condone terrorism and that his son is innocent.
Maher Hussein Smadi, said his son entered the U.S. with a student visa. But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Smadi came to the United States legally in 2007 using a tourist visa.
A student visa would have made Smadi easier to track since a program was established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to monitor academic visitors. However, such a system doesn't exist for tourists.
Friends and acquaintances say Smadi and his brother came to the U.S. after their mother died. They lived in Santa Clara, Calif., before Smadi moved to tiny Italy, Texas, near Dallas.
There, Smadi was known as "Sam," a kind, fun-loving guy who enjoyed dancing to techno music. Neighbors say Smadi, who is Muslim, let them know when he was fasting for religious reasons. But he also would occasionally drink alcohol _ something prohibited in Islam.
He worked as a cashier at a large gas station.
ICE officials would not say what aspects of Smadi's case the federal agency might be investigating, but it's likely examining how Smadi got a job and who hired him, since a tourist visa doesn't entitle its holder to work in the U.S.
Mohamad Alhalwani, who operated the business where Smadi worked in Texas, said the manager who hired the young man reviewed his documents and saw he had legal status to work. "We do not hire anybody illegally," Alhalwani said.
Associated Press Writers Jamie Stengle and Danny Robbins contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)