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Chelsea Bombing Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Charges

In this artist's drawing, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, center, appears in a New York courtroom to face federal terrorism charges, Thurs., Nov. 10. His attorneys are David Patton, left, and Peggy Cross-Goldenberg. AP photo by Elizabeth Williams.
In this artist’s drawing, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, center, appears in a New York courtroom to face federal terrorism charges on Nov. 10. His attorneys are David Patton, left, and Peggy Cross-Goldenberg. AP photo by Elizabeth Williams.

BY SEAN EGAN | On Thurs., Nov. 17, Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the suspect in the September Chelsea bombing and other related attacks, pleaded not guilty to eight federal terrorism charges at his arraignment at Manhattan Federal Court.

Rahimi (also listed as “Rahami” in various official documents) was formally indicted on these charges on Wed., Nov. 16, as filed by US Attorney Preet Bharara. The charges include using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, and destroying property by means of fire or explosive. If convicted, Rahimi could face a life sentence in prison.

Rahimi’s alleged attack happened around 8:30 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 17, when an explosive device, placed in a dumpster near the King David Gallery (131 W. 23rd St.) and Selis Manor (135 W. 23rd St.; a housing center for the blind and visually impaired) detonated. Surrounding buildings were damaged and dozens were left injured — though none seriously. Another bomb (constructed of a pressure cooker, wires, and a cellphone) was found on W. 27th St., though this device did not detonate.

Rahimi, 28, is also the suspect in two other non-fatal, bomb-related incidents from that weekend in New Jersey: the bombing of a 5K run for the Marines in Seaside Park, NJ, and the discovery of undetonated pipe bombs at an NJ Transit station.

“Allegedly driven by a commitment to violent jihad, Rahimi planted bombs in the heart of Manhattan and in New Jersey,” wrote Bharara of Rahimi, an American citizen of Afghan descent, who grew up in New Jersey and reportedly became radicalized in recent years after taking multiple trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan. “One of the bombs exploded on a Saturday evening in Chelsea, injuring over 30 people and shattering windows hundreds of yards away. For his alleged acts of terror, Rahimi will now face justice in a federal courthouse just blocks south of where he allegedly planted his bombs,” Bharara continued in her Nov. 10 statement, after Rahami faced charges in Manhattan prior to his indictment.

At his arraignment, Rahimi’s lawyer, Peggy Cross-Goldenberg, asserted that her client would be pleading not guilty to the charges — a statement that Rahimi verbally confirmed with a “yes, sir” to Judge Richard M. Berman, the New York Times reported. The prosecuting lawyer, Nicholas J. Lewin revealed reports including statements Rahimi made to the FBI in the aftermath of the bombings and his arrest would be used as discovery material for the case. Additionally, he said that video footage of Rahimi’s movements and actions on the day of the Chelsea bombing — including the actual planting of bombs — would be provided.

Aside from these charges, Rahimi was also charged on seven counts in New Jersey, including attempted murder, stemming from the dramatic chase and shootout he engaged in with the law enforcement officers who apprehended him in Linden, NJ the Monday after his alleged attacks. Rahimi also sustained injuries during the shootout, and, according to his lawyers, continues to have medical issues, which have complicated legal proceedings. Rahimi appeared at his arraignment for these charges on Thurs., Oct. 13 via a video conference call while in a hospital bed. Again, he pleaded not guilty to these charges.

Judge Berman suggested that Rahimi’s trial could begin within the next few months, and set Rahimi’s next Manhattan court date for Mon., Dec. 19, according to the Wall Street Journal.