MANHATTAN (CN) – The former Bronx teacher and his twin brother accused of stockpiling bomb materials in a closet of their parents’ home pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal explosives charges.
Christian and Tyler Toro entered their pleas this morning before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. The 27-year-olds were both arrested on Feb. 15 after authorities executing a search warrant on their apartment turned up more than 30 pounds of various chemicals used in explosives.
As detailed in a 5-page complaint, the chemicals were kept in a bedroom that the brothers shared. Authorities also seized Tyler’s diary, a box of firecrackers and a bag of metal spheres that could be used as projectiles in a bomb.
At court today, the brothers sported matching leg cuffs, shaved heads, beards and glasses; Christian wore tan prison scrubs and Tyler in navy blue.
The Toro brothers’ mother attended the hearing but declined to comment to reporters.
A week earlier, a grand jury indicted her sons on charges of conspiracy to manufacture firearms, unlawful manufacture of a destructive device, unlawful possession of a destructive device and distribution of explosive materials to a minor.
The next status conference in the case is scheduled for May 23.
Elizabeth Hanft from the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted at a bail hearing in February that, in addition to the powder explosive materials described in the complaint, agents also found gasoline and Styrofoam, what she called “improvised Napalm,” at the Toros’ apartment.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Cott denied bail to Christian at the time, finding that he posed a danger to the community.
The brothers were represented at today’s hearing by Amy Gallichio and Sabrina Shroff from the Federal Defenders of New York.
The FBI’s investigation into Christian Toro and his brother began after an unnamed student was arrested for calling in a bomb threat to Harlem Prep High School on Dec. 4, 2017.
Though the complaint does not get into these details, the Associated Press reported that the arrested student was a 15-year-old girl whom Toro was charged on Jan. 31 with raping.
Christian Toro taught math at Harlem Prep but formally resigned on Jan. 10, after this student’s bomb-threat arrest.
Students from Harlem High School told investigators that Toro had paid at least two students $50 an hour to work at his apartment on breaking apart fireworks so that they could extract and stockpile their explosive powders.
The visits lasted from October 2017 to January 2018, according to the February complaint. One of the students recruited by Toro was the same girl who called in the threat and who has accused Toro of raping her.