Friday, January 13, 2012

Plea deal sought for American in NYC pipe bomb case (Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) ? Prosecutors said on Monday they were considering a plea deal for Jose Pimentel, the American accused of building a pipe bomb and targeting police stations, military personnel and post offices around New York City.

Pimentel, 27, whose case is only the second prosecuted by the Manhattan district attorney's office under state anti-terrorism laws passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, had expected to hear on Monday whether he would be indicted on terrorism, conspiracy and weapons charges.

But in a brief court appearance, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to postpone the case until March 1.

Between now and then, both sides indicated, the lawyers will discuss potential plea offers.

"The People are hopeful that on or before that date, we will have a negotiated disposition or a grand jury indictment," said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Brian Fields.

Lori Cohen, one of Pimentel's lawyers, said prosecutors had provided her with "materials" and that she and her client were reviewing them. Pimentel will remain in prison without bail in the meantime.

"I think both parties agreed it was the best course of action," Cohen said of the decision to keep the case on hold.

The grand jury action had already been postponed twice, once when Pimentel's first court-appointed lawyer was forced to withdraw because of a conflict of interest and once at a December court hearing so both sides could continue to investigate the charges.

State law normally requires defendants accused of a felony and imprisoned without bail to be indicted or given a hearing within six days of their arrest.

The only other case charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance under the state terrorism law involves an Algerian and a Moroccan-born American citizen arrested last spring for plotting to bomb synagogues in the city. That case is still pending.

The charges against Pimentel, a U.S. citizen born in the Dominican Republic, came after a police informant secretly recorded meetings with him over several months as he bought bomb-making materials, discussed potential targets and read online instructions on how to assemble the explosive device, according to court documents.

Police arrested him when he made progress in building the bomb in a New York apartment, police said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)


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