MANHATTAN (CN) – Making his first court appearance since authorities say he tried to blow himself up at New York City’s Port Authority, terrorist suspect Akayed Ullah appeared sedated Wednesday in a live video feed broadcast from his hospital bedside.
Ullah, 27, has been recovering at Bellevue since a Dec. 11 explosion rocked the morning rush hour at one of New York’s busiest transit hubs.
Apart from a few minor injuries to three commuters, Bangladesh-born Ullah was hit hardest. Authorities say the homemade pipe bomb strapped to his chest was wired with Christmas tree lights and held together with plastic zip ties. It contained metal screws for shrapnel and a 9-volt battery to trigger detonation.
Propped up on a white pillow, with hospital linens covering up any sign of medical treatment, Ullah appeared sedate in a full-color video stream as U.S. District Judge Katharine Parker conducted the afternoon presentment.
Ullah was mostly able to nod his head to confirm that he had seen the government’s indictment against him and that he had signed financial affidavit truthfully.
A complaint filed Tuesday says Ullah admitted at the hospital that he was inspired by the Islamic State group to carry out the bombing.
Whether Ullah triggered the bomb intentionally in a pedestrian tunnel at the Port Authority bus terminal, or if the device malfunctioned, has not been established.
Judge Parker assigned federal defender Amy Gallicchio to represent Ullah, who waived a public reading of the indictment.
Ullah will remain in pretrial detention until his next hearing, scheduled for mid-January 2018. Until he has recuperated, that detention will likely continue at Bellevue.
If convicted of all five counts, Ullah faces potential life sentence and a mandatory minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison.
Tuesday’s complaint was signed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn Crowley, Rebekah Donaleski and George Turner.
Crowley recently prosecuted another ISIS-inspired attack on New York City, winning the conviction in October of Ahmad Rahimi for a series of minor explosions that rattled Manhattan and New Jersey in 2016.
As with this week’s attack, the bombing’s last year involved no serious injuries.
The Trump administration has used Monday’s attack to push for a more restrictive immigration policy.
“America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions took a similar tone in his response to the bombing, calling on Congress to “fix our broken immigration system so that we admit to this country those who are likely to succeed, not violent criminals, gang members, terrorists, or their sympathizers.”