MANHATTAN (CN) – The 27-year-old who survived the botched explosion of a pipe bomb strapped his chest at New York City’s Port Authority in December carefully hedged his plea on Thursday.
“At this moment, not guilty,” said Akayed Ullah.
Provoking fleeting panic on Dec. 11, 2017, the attack caused no physical injuries except for Ullah, whom authorities rushed to Bellevue Hospital where doctors stitched him up and dressed his wounds.
Three commuters near Ullah during the incident at morning rush hour suffered headaches and ringing ears, in what authorities quickly pronounced a terrorist attack.
Prosecutors say Ullah admitted as much in an interview with law enforcement at the hospital. “I did it for the Islamic State,” he allegedly said.
In addition to surveillance video that allegedly captures Ullah detonating the makeshift explosive, the government says a search of Ullah’s apartment turned up crude bomb-making materials including screws, pieces of metal pipes and Christmas tree lights.
Authorities also found a passport in Ullah’s name with the handwritten notation: “O AMERICA, DIE IN YOUR RAGE.”
Ullah’s arraignment fell shortly after a grand jury indicted him Wednesday on charges that align with the complaint brought against him one day after the bombing: supporting a foreign terrorist organization, using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destroying public property and using a destructive device in a crime of violence.
Addressing reporters today, Ullah’s attorney Amy Gallicchio emphasized the importance of due process.
“When we have an indictment containing charges like this, I think it’s easy to lose sight of the important and invaluable rights that every person is afforded in our system of justice, including Mr. Ullah,” Gallicchio said.
Emotions ran high at the time of Ullah’s arrest, which occurred in the middle of the holiday season and quickly fed the political machine.
Republicans quickly seized upon Ullah’s immigration status in the aftermath of his arrest. President Donald Trump called for further restrictions to the F-4 program that allowed Bangladesh-born Ullah to obtain a U.S. visa, fueling the myth of an immigrant crime wave.
But Ullah’s case has receded from the headlines since that time, and he faces a months-long road ahead to a possible trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan has given the parties three months to share evidence before the next hearing on April 13.
Meanwhile, Ullah will seek medical attention inside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional, where attorneys say that he needs treatment to remove his stitches and replace his dressing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Turner estimated that any eventual trial would likely last roughly two weeks.