Times Square Bombing Suspect Appears in Court
Published: May 18, 2010
Over the last two weeks, the naturalized Pakistani immigrant charged with driving a crude car bomb into Times Square settled into something of a strange daily routine: He signed a piece of paper waiving his right to a lawyer and a speedy court appearance. Then he continued to talk to federal authorities, providing what they have called valuable intelligence.
David Goldman for The New York Times
On Tuesday, that extraordinary routine — which has kept him out of a courtroom, away from a lawyer and out of the public eye — was interrupted. The immigrant, Faisal Shahzad, whose unsuccessful attempt to detonate the car bomb on May 1 wrought chaos among thousands of people in Times Square, appeared in court for the first time, represented by a lawyer.
But the tension and drama that led up to the brief proceeding, including a sweep of the packed fifth-floor courtroom that cleared mobs of reporters and spectators so the room could be secured, far overshadowed the substance of the nine-minute hearing.
Indeed, Mr. Shahzad, 30, a former financial analyst who was raised in a military family in Pakistan and earned degrees from the University of Bridgeport, spoke only one word — “yes” — during his appearance in Manhattan federal court, confirming that the information in an affidavit was the truth.
He seemed calm and looked intently at United States Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV, who at one point read him his rights, including his right to remain silent, and warned him that anything he said could be used against him.
The hearing came after Mr. Shahzad indicated he was ready to stop waiving his right to a speedy court appearance, people briefed on the matter said. It is known as a presentment, or an initial court appearance on a complaint. Mr. Shahzad was not asked to enter a plea, and did not do so.
As Mr. Shahzad was led into the courtroom, the buzz of conversation among reporters, lawyers and spectators suddenly ceased. The room became so still that the scratch of courtroom artists could be heard.
Clad in a gray sweatshirt and sweat pants and Nike sneakers, Mr. Shahzad sat beside his court-appointed lawyer, Julia L. Gatto, with two United States marshals posted behind him, one of them a towering figure. Four more were lined up along the wall. Across the courtroom, the prosecution table was crowded with four assistant United States attorneys and Andrew P. Pachtman, the Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who swore out the complaint charging Mr. Shahzad with five felonies.
Mr. Shahzad, who has been held at an undisclosed location since his arrest, was arrested on May 3 at Kennedy International Airport aboard a plane that was about to leave for Dubai. He began cooperating with prosecutors and F.B.I. agents and police detectives from Joint Terrorism Task Force a short time later.
The day after the arrest, he was charged in the complaint with one count each of attempting acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; using a destructive device in connection with an attempted crime of violence; transporting explosives; and attempting to destroy property with fire and explosives. The first two charges each carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors said he had admitted receiving bomb-making training in the Pakistani region of Waziristan and driving a Nissan Pathfinder packed with propane, gasoline, fireworks and fertilizer into Times Square at about 6:30 p.m. on May 1, when the bustling crossroads was packed with a Saturday-night throng of tourists.
During the court appearance, Judge Francis asked for the time of Mr. Shahzad’s arrest. An assistant United States attorney, Randall W. Jackson, said he was arrested on May 3 about 11 p.m.
Judge Francis asked whether he had waived speedy presentment “in the interim.”
“That’s correct, your honor,” Mr. Jackson said.
Mr. Jackson told the judge that the government was seeking to detain Mr. Shahzad. Ms. Gatto did not oppose that request, although she left open the possibility of applying later for release on bond. Mr. Shahzad was ordered detained, and he is now being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
As the hearing ended, Ms. Gatto asked the judge to order that the Federal Bureau of Prisons make sure Mr. Shahzad was provided with halal meals, consistent with a Muslim diet.