Monday, December 5, 2011

Grand jury delayed in bomb plot case

Former Schenectady resident faces terrorism charges

Prosecutors and a defense lawyer have agreed to delay having a grand jury weigh in on a terrorism case against a man accused of assembling a homemade bomb to try to blow up targets including police cars and post offices, his lawyer said.

Jose Pimentel, a former Schenectady resident, had been scheduled to learn Monday whether he had been indicted, but defense lawyer Lori Cohen said a legal deadline would be waived for about a month.

"Both parties agree that this is not the case to rush into the grand jury on," she said in an email. The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment.

In the meantime, Pimentel will remain behind bars without bail on charges including weapons possession and conspiracy as terror crimes. The Dominican-born al-Qaida sympathizer maintained a website detailing his belief in jihad, or holy war; told an informant he wanted to build small bombs and use them against targets that also included soldiers returning home from abroad; and was arrested in the midst of making a pipe bomb, authorities said. It's unclear whether Pimentel will have to appear for a court date Monday.

State law limits how long someone charged with a felony can be held without an indictment or hearing, but it's not uncommon for defense lawyers to agree to extend the time frame, up to 144 hours, if they think more investigation, a fuller presentation to the grand jury or discussions with prosecutors could benefit their clients.

Cohen said she was continuing to gather information about the case, which is one of few brought under a state terrorism law instead of federal laws. She already had agreed to extend the deadline last month.

Pimentel's previous lawyer had said the 27-year-old wasn't a true threat, noting that he made his extremist views public, rather than allegedly operating a secret terrorist cell.

But police and prosecutors say Pimentel was clearly dangerous. Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, told police he was about an hour from finishing his bomb, work that was secretly recorded on audio and videotape in the informant's apartment, authorities said.

Two law enforcement officials have said the FBI, which is usually involved in terrorism cases, passed on this one because agents felt Pimentel didn't have the inclination or ability to act without the informant's involvement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pimentel spent five years in Schenectady until he and his wife separated and he moved back to New York City around 2009.

By Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press

Source: Times Union

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