PHOENIX - An Iraqi man charged with detonating a homemade explosive device outside an Arizona Social Security Administration office building pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Abdullatif Ali Aldosary was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on charges of maliciously damaging federal property by means of explosives and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Authorities say the 47-year-old researched bomb-making materials and gathered chemicals before detonating an explosive outside the Social Security office in Casa Grande on Nov 30. No one was injured in the blast.
During a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Phoenix, Aldosary spoke only one word after taking the oath and being asked by the judge if he swore to tell the truth.
"Yes," Aldosary said softly.
His federal public defender, Susan Anderson, entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. She declined comment after the hearing. A trial is set for Feb. 5.
Authorities have declined to provide details about the case, including any potential motive and whether they suspect Aldosary was working alone or with others. They tracked him down after witnesses reported his license plate on a vehicle seen fleeing the scene of the explosion, according to a criminal complaint.
In 2008, Aldosary pleaded guilty to felony aggravated harassment charges. He was sentenced to two months in jail and three years of probation. But his probation was revoked a year later, and he was ordered to serve a year in prison.
Aldosary had sought help from U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar's office last year in obtaining permanent residency. Gosar has said he contacted Homeland Security, which responded in a letter that Aldosary's case had been put on hold "pursuant to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility" under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Gosar's office then questioned why the man hadn't been deported.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Aldosary's previous arrests on harassment charges and a probation violation weren't considered deportable offenses. Aldosary, who came to the United States legally in 1997, was denied a green card in 2008 because he fought with anti-government forces trying to overthrow former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein in Basra, Iraq, in 1991.
He again had requested a green card, but federal immigration officials have now flagged Aldosary for a potential review of his status in the U.S. after his most recent arrest in the bombing.
Authorities say a search of Aldosary's home in Coolidge turned up documents hidden behind a picture that explained how to build a bomb. Aldosary also sought information on how to create an explosive material known as RDX, "considered one of the most powerful of the military high explosives," according to the criminal complaint. "RDX is believed to have been used in many bomb plots, including terrorist plots."
Authorities also seized a handgun and rifle at Aldosary's home, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and several gallons of chemicals that could be used to make a bomb, according to court documents.