U.S. top court rejects challenge to California gun waiting period

Firearms are shown for sale at the AO Sword gun store in El Cajon, California, January 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to gun rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday turned away a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period for firearms purchases that is intended to guard against impulsive violence and suicides.

The court’s action underscored its continued reluctance to step into the national debate over gun control roiled by a series of mass shootings including one at a Florida school last week. One of the court’s most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas, dissented from the decision to reject the case and accused his colleagues of showing contempt toward constitutional protections for gun rights.

The gun rights groups and individual gun owners who challenged the law had argued that it violated their right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. The challengers did not seek to invalidate California’s waiting period for everyone, just for people who already owned guns and passed a background check.

In his dissent, Thomas scolded his colleagues. “If a lower court treated another right so cavalierly, I have little doubt this court would intervene,” Thomas wrote. “But as evidenced by our continued inaction in this area, the Second Amendment is a disfavored right in this court.”

The Supreme Court has not taken up a major firearms case since issuing important gun rulings in 2008 and 2010.

The United States has among the most lenient gun control laws in the world. With the U.S. Congress deeply divided over gun control, it has fallen to states and localities to impose firearms restrictions. Democratic-governed California has some of the broadest firearms measures of any state.

A series of mass shootings including one in which a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida high school on Feb. 14 have added to the long-simmering U.S. debate over gun control and the availability of firearms.

In another gun case, the high court on Tuesday also declined to take up a National Rifle Association challenge to California’s refusal to lower its fees on firearms sales and instead use a surplus generated by the fees to fund efforts to track down illegal weapons.

Thomas said he suspected that the Supreme Court would readily hear cases involving potentially unconstitutional waiting periods if they involved abortion, racist publications or police traffic stops.

“The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this court’s constitutional orphan. And the lower courts seem to have gotten the message,” Thomas added.

Lead plaintiff Jeff Silvester, the Calguns Foundation and its executive director Brandon Combs, and the Second Amendment Foundation in 2011 challenged the 10-day waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and its actual delivery to the buyer, saying it violated the Second Amendment for individuals who already lawfully own a firearm or are licensed to carry one.

The waiting period gives a gun buyer inclined to use it for an impulsive purpose a “cooling off” period before obtaining it, which has been shown in studies to reduce handgun suicides and homicides, the state said in a legal filing. The waiting period also gives officials time to run background checks and ensure that weapons being sold are not stolen or being purchased for someone prohibited from gun ownership, the state said.

The states of California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Iowa, Maryland and New Jersey as well as Washington, D.C., have waiting periods that vary in duration and type of firearm, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gun control advocacy group.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s law in 2016, reversing a federal trial court that had ruled it unconstitutional.

Last year, the Supreme Court left in place a California law that bars permits to carry a concealed gun in public places unless the applicant can show “good cause” for having it.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

New Jersey woman raises $325,000 for homeless Samaritan

New Jersey woman raises $325,000 for homeless Samaritan

(Reuters) – A homeless man who spent his last $20 on a New Jersey woman whose car ran out of gas has received more than $325,000 in charitable pledges after she started a fund-raising drive to reward him for his generosity.

Kate McClure, 27, launched a page on GoFundMe.com that had raised $325,420 for the man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., as of Friday afternoon. The number was rising steadily throughout the day.

Bobbitt describes himself as a 34-year-old former U.S. Marine and paramedic who has been homeless for about a year, according to NJ.com, the website whose story on the encounter helped spark the fundraising interest.

McClure said on the GoFundMe website she was driving on Interstate 95 one night last month when she ran out of gas. She then met Bobbitt, who had been sitting on the side of the road with a panhandling sign.

He told her go back to her car and lock her doors, McClure said.

“A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe,” McClure said on GoFundMe.com.

Bobbitt told BBC Radio on Friday that he considered the side of the road an unsafe place for anyone, especially for a woman by herself.

“She just seemed like she needed help,” Bobbitt said. “The situation I’m in, people help me every day. When I have the chance to help someone else, it’s the right thing to do.”

After the highway incident, McClure went back periodically to check on Bobbitt, bringing warm clothes and some cash. Eventually she and her husband decided to start a formal effort to raise money for rent, a car and other expenses until he can find a job.

The fund has grown by thousands of dollars in recent days as widespread media coverage combined with goodwill surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday appeared to have unleashed a groundswell.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Tom Brown)

New Jersey man sentenced for role in Russian uranium bribe scheme

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A New Jersey man was sentenced on Monday to a year and a day in prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with his role in arranging bribes for the awarding of contracts with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Boris Rubizhevsky, 67, of Closter, New Jersey, was sentenced to prison along with three years of supervised release and a $26,500 fine by U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang for the District of Maryland, the department said in a statement.

Rubizhevsky pleaded guilty to the money-laundering conspiracy charge in June 2015. He was accused of acting as an intermediary in connection with bribes to co-conspirator Vadim Mikerin, a former nuclear official of Russia’s state-run enterprise Rosatom, the statement said.

Mikerin, former president of a U.S.-based Rosatom subsidiary, pleaded guilty in 2015 to helping orchestrate more than $2 million in bribe payments through secret accounts in Cyprus, Latvia and Switzerland.

Between October 2011 and February 2013, Rubizhevsky and Mikerin agreed to conceal bribes paid from the United States to overseas bank accounts, including a payment to an account in Latvia, the statement said.

Mikerin was sentenced in December 2015 to 48 months in prison for his role in the money-laundering scheme.

Authorities have said those payments went to Russian nuclear energy officials in exchange for contracts to U.S. companies involved in the shipment of uranium from Russia. Attorneys for Rosatom have said Mikerin acted alone.

Mikerin oversaw the shipment of uranium from Russia for use in American power plants. Much of that material was drawn from decommissioned Russian weapons under an agreement with Washington known as the “Megatons to Megawatts” program, which converted the uranium from thousands of nuclear warheads for civilian use in U.S. nuclear power plants.

At one point, the arrangement fueled 10 percent of U.S. electricity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Daren Condrey, the former owner of Transport Logistics International, pleaded guilty in 2015 to conspiring to make bribe payments to Mikerin in exchange for uranium shipping contracts. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it a crime to bribe overseas officials to win business.

Mikerin’s arrest followed a seven-year investigation that began as a U.S. intelligence probe into Russian nuclear officials, according to court records and people familiar with the matter.

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting by Joel Schectman; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)

New York City truck attack suspect followed Islamic State plans

Amaya Lopez-Silvero, 20, and Elliot Levy, 21, embrace by a makeshift memorial for victims of Tuesday's attack lay outside a police barricade on the bike path next to West Street a day after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path alongside the Hudson River in New York City, New York, U.S.

By Gina Cherelus and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City by crashing a truck through a crowd on a bike path followed online plans from Islamic State and left a note saying the militant group would “endure forever,” police said on Wednesday.

Police said they had interviewed Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who is in hospital after an officer shot him, ending the riverfront rampage. They said he appeared to have been planning the attack for weeks and that investigators recovered notes and knives at the scene.

“The gist of the note was that the Islamic State would endure forever,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”

The attack was the deadliest on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack.

Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.

Saipov allegedly used a pickup truck rented from a New Jersey Home Depot Inc store to run down pedestrians and bicyclists on the path before slamming into the side of a school bus.

He then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen.

Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of lower Manhattan.

 

TRUMP: ‘SEND HIM TO GITMO’

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham urged authorities to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant, a move that would allow investigators to question the man without him having a lawyer present.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be open to transferring Saipov to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where other suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotters are held.

“Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that,” Trump told reporters. “We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.”

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said that Saipov had been radicalized while living in the United States.

The majority of the 18 Islamic State-inspired attacks carried out in the United States since September 2014 were the work of attackers who developed radical views while living in the United States, said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, research director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 1, 2017.

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 1, 2017. New York PD/Handout via REUTERS

ARGENTINE FRIENDS AMONG DEAD

Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. Belgium’s foreign minister said a Belgian citizen was also among those killed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the city’s marathon on Sunday, one of the world’s top road races, which draws some 51,000 runners and 2.5 million spectators from around the globe.

A pair of ethnic Chechen brothers killed three people and injured more than 260 with homemade bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, memories that were stirred for some runners by Tuesday’s attack.

“It was unsettling to hear the news,” said Neil Gottlieb, 48, who crossed the finish line in Boston shortly before the blasts and plans to run the New York City race on Sunday. “You simply can’t stop a truck and that’s the issue in my mind and my wife’s mind.”

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said his government would do all it could to help investigate the “extremely brutal” attack.

Last week an Uzbekistan citizen living in Brooklyn was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring to support Islamic State.

Saipov had not been the subject of any U.S. investigation, Miller said. He had been in contact with a person who was the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, a U.S. government source told Reuters on Wednesday.

Trump, who has pressed for a ban on travelers entering the United States from some predominantly Muslim countries, criticized the U.S. visa system, blaming Democrats including U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the diversity visa system that admitted Saipov. He said he wanted a “merit based” immigration program.

“We do not want chain migration, where somebody like him ultimately will be allowed to bring in many, many members of his family,” Trump told reporters.

Schumer shot back at Trump: “Instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, (Trump) should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution, anti-terrorism funding, which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

 

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Melissa Fares in New York, Joseph Ax in Patterson, New Jersey and Mark Hosenball and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Tait and Bill Rigby)

 

Deadly attack in New York City branded ‘terrorism’ by authorities

Police investigate a pickup truck used in an attack on the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York, U.S.,

By Gina Cherelus and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people in New York City by driving a rental truck down a riverfront bike path on Tuesday appeared to have acted alone in an attack that bore all the hallmarks of terrorism, authorities said.

The suspect, who was shot by police and arrested moments after the rampage in Lower Manhattan, left a note saying he carried out the attack in the name of the militant Islamic State group, the New York Times and CNN said.

The death toll was lower than from similar assaults in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year. However, it was still the bloodiest single attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people.

The suspect allegedly swerved the pickup onto a path filled with pedestrians and bicyclists on a sunny, crisp autumn afternoon, mowing down everyone in his path before slamming into the side of a school bus.

The man then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen.

Multiple bikes are crushed along a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017.

Multiple bikes are crushed along a bike path in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, U.S., October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The attack, which left crumpled bicycles scattered along the path and victims writhing on the ground, was over in seconds.

In addition to the eight fatalities at least 11 people were hospitalized for injuries described as serious but not life-threatening. That excluded the suspect, who underwent surgery for gunshot wounds.

Police declined to publicly identify the man, but a source familiar with the investigation said his name was Sayfullo Saipov, 29. He reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of lower Manhattan.

He had rented the pickup from a Home Depot hardware store which, according to media accounts, was located in Passaic, just south of Paterson.

First responders tend to a victim after a shooting incident in New York City

First responders tend to a victim after a shooting incident in New York City October 31, 2017.

ARGENTINE FRIENDS AMONG DEAD

Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. Belgium’s foreign minister said a Belgian citizen was also among those killed.

Despite the attack, thousands of costumed Halloween revelers turned out hours later for New York City’s main Halloween parade, which went on as scheduled on Tuesday night with a heightened police presence just a few blocks away.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the city’s marathon, which is scheduled for Sunday. “You’ll see a lot of officers with long guns. Other things you won’t see that are protecting us,” he told MSNBC.

A U.S. law enforcement official described the suspect as a U.S. immigrant born in Uzbekistan, a predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia that was once part of the former Soviet Union. CNN and NBC News said he entered the United States in 2010.

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said his government would do all it could to help investigate the “extremely brutal” attack.

Authorities late on Tuesday surrounded a house in Paterson where, according to the New York Times, Saipov was believed to have lived. Paterson, known for its large immigrant population, is home to about 150,000 people, including 25,000 to 30,000 Muslims.

ABC News reported that Saipov had lived in Tampa, Florida. A check of court records related to a traffic citation that Saipov received in eastern Pennsylvania in 2015 showed he listed addresses then in Paterson and Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

CNN and other media outlets, citing police officials, reported that the suspect shouted “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for “God is greatest” – when he jumped out of his truck.

Although authorities from the mayor’s office to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security all swiftly branded the attack an act of terrorism, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stressed that the suspect was believed to have acted alone.

The New York Times said investigators quickly recognized Saipov had come to the attention of law enforcement in the past. It cited three officials as saying federal authorities knew of Saipov from an unrelated probe, although it was unclear whether that was because he had ties to someone who was under scrutiny or because he was the target of an investigation.

A damaged school bus is seen at the scene of a pickup truck attack in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media.

A damaged school bus is seen at the scene of a pickup truck attack in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 31, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. Sebastian Sobczak via REUTERS

U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, told MSNBC in an interview that authorities were not aware of any other suspects, but that finding any such links would be a priority.

“It’s still I think far too early to say” whether the suspect was radicalized before he came to the United States years ago or shifted once he was already here, or acted on his own rather than at the behest of an organized group, he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has pressed for a ban on travelers entering the United States from some predominantly Muslim countries, said on Twitter that he had ordered Homeland Security officials to “step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!”

He also criticized the U.S. visa system, blaming Democrats and saying that he wanted a ‘merit based’ program for immigrants to the United States.

 

 

(Reporting by Dan Trotta and Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen, Anna Driver and Barbara Goldberg in New York, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Paul Tait and Chizu Nomiyama)

 

Maine, New Jersey end state government shutdowns

A "Park Closed" sign is seen at an entrance to Liberty State Park during a partial state government shutdown in Jersey City, New Jersey U.S., July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – New Jersey and Maine ended partial government shutdowns just in time for the Fourth of July holiday on Tuesday, helping New Jersey Governor Chris Christie move past the embarrassment of being photographed on a beach that had been closed to the public.

Both states had suspended non-essential services for three days after failing to reach budget agreements. Their Republican governors signed the budget bills after late-night negotiations with their respective state legislatures.

New Jersey and Maine were two of nine states that had missed their deadlines for enacting budgets in time for the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Christie signed a $34.7 billion budget measure that included reshaping the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, which covers 3.8 million people in the state.

All state parks and beaches would be open for the Fourth of July holiday and state offices would be open as usual on Wednesday, the governor said.

Christie had remained unapologetic after the Star-Ledger newspaper captured the photos by hiring a plane to fly the New Jersey coastline, showing Christie with family and friends on a state beach on Sunday that was otherwise deserted because of the shutdown.

The scandal became a popular topic on social media with images of Christie in his beach chair superimposed into places such as famous beach scenes in the movies “From Here to Eternity” and “Planet of the Apes.”

Christie played down the kerfuffle.

“If they had flown that plane over the beach and I was sitting next to a 25-year-old blonde in that beach chair next to me, that’s a story,” Christie said.

While states have mostly recovered since the 2007-2009 recession, their revenue growth has not always kept pace with the national economy.

Illinois is in its third year without an enacted budget. In Connecticut and Pennsylvania, lower-than-anticipated income tax collections exacerbated budget gaps and led to disputes over how to close them.

Maine Governor Paul LePage announced on Twitter that he had signed a budget for the fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

“The Maine state government shutdown is now over. Happy Fourth of July!” LePage said.

“I have signed a budget with no tax increase. I thank the House Republicans for standing strong for the Maine people,” he said in a second tweet.Maine state police, parks and offices responsible for collecting revenue had all planned to work through the shutdown, the state’s first since 1991.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chris Reese)

Maine, New Jersey lawmakers scramble to end partial government shutdowns

A "Park Closed" sign is seen at an entrance to Liberty State Park during a partial state government shutdown in Jersey City, New Jersey U.S., July 3, 2017.

By Elinor Comlay and Chris Kenning

(Reuters) – Partial government shutdowns in Maine and New Jersey stretched to a second day on Sunday as lawmakers returned to their respective state capitals in a bid to break budget impasses that have led to the suspension of many nonessential services.

In Maine, a bipartisan budget committee met in Augusta in hopes of breaking a stalemate between Republican Governor Paul LePage and Democratic lawmakers. The shutdown came after LePage threatened to veto a compromise reached by lawmakers in the state’s $7.055 billion, two-year budget.

At New Jersey’s statehouse in Trenton, there was little evidence of progress in resolving a fight over a health insurance bill that Republican Governor Chris Christie said must be passed alongside the state’s budget.

Maine state police, parks and all offices responsible for collecting revenue planned to operate during the shutdown, the state’s first since 1991, but the majority of 12,000 state employees will be furloughed.

New Jersey residents were not so lucky. With the July 4 holiday weekend in full swing, the shutdown there included the closure of Island State Beach Park, one of New Jersey’s few free public beaches, and all other state parks.

Although he beach park was closed to the public, Christie took a state helicopter on Saturday to a gubernatorial residence there to be with family and said he would go back on Sunday night.

“That’s just the way it goes. Run for governor, and you have can have a residence there,” he said when pressed on the issue.

At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, the governor said he had not spoken since Friday to Democratic holdouts.

The impasse could mean a furlough for 30,000 to 35,000 state employees on Monday.

In Maine, the stalled budget proposal would have repealed a measure voters approved in November for a 3 percent income tax hike on residents earning more than $200,000 a year. It also contained a 1.5 percent increase in the lodging tax, while increasing funding for public education by $162 million.

LePage has promised to veto any spending plan that raises taxes.

A six-member bipartisan House-Senate budget panel huddled into the evening on Sunday seeking to reach a deal that would win the two-thirds vote needed for passage of an emergency budget bill in both legislative chambers.

Mary-Erin Casale, a spokeswoman for Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon, said a new compromise could be ready for a vote as early as Monday morning, about the time state employees planned to protest the shutdown at the capitol.

A spokeswoman for the governor could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

 

HEALTH INSURANCE STALEMATE

At the center of New Jersey’s stalemate was a plan by Christie to shake up the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, which he said lacked sufficient transparency and spent too much on salaries.

He threatened to cut $150 million in school funding and other items unless lawmakers adopt his proposal, which would redirect some of Horizon’s reserves to drug addiction treatment and other services.

Christie offered to hear Democrats’ proposals for breaking the impasse, saying: “It should end today,” but acknowledged a settlement was unlikely so soon.

Christie, a former presidential contender whose reputation was tarnished by the Bridgegate traffic scandal involving some of his closest aides, ranks as the least popular governor in state history. He is in his second and final term.

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and other Democrats have criticized the Horizon bill as “bad public policy,” insisting that it be considered after the budget is passed.

Christie blamed Prieto for the shutdown and vowed on Sunday to stand by the Horizon bill, saying: “I got elected by a lot more people than Vinnie Prieto did.”

 

(Reporting by Elinor Comley in Atlantic City, N.J., and Chris Kenning in Chicago; Editing by Frank McGurty and and Peter Cooney)

 

Accused New York, New Jersey bomber to be tried in New York

Ahmad Rahimi, 28, is shown in Union County, New Jersey, U.S. Prosecutor's Office photo released on September 19, 2016. Courtesy Union County Prosecutor's Office

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Afghan-born man charged with setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey will be tried in New York after a federal judge rejected his lawyers’ argument that he could not get a fair trial in the city where he is accused of injuring 30 people.

At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman denied a motion to move the case against Ahmad Rahimi to another federal court, saying an impartial jury could be assembled in “one of the largest and most diverse districts in the country.”

Lawyers for Rahimi, a U.S. citizen, had proposed Vermont and Washington, D.C. as possible alternative venues.

Rahimi, 29, is facing federal and state charges in New York and New Jersey after authorities said he detonated bombs in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and in the coastal New Jersey town of Seaside Heights last September.

The bomb in New York injured 30 people but the explosion in New Jersey hurt no one.

According to prosecutors, Rahimi also left behind unexploded bombs in New York and in Elizabeth, New Jersey, before he was captured in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police in which two officers suffered minor injuries.

In their motion to transfer the case, Rahimi’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case would make it impossible to assemble an impartial jury. But Berman said Monday that robust questioning of potential jurors would be enough to ensure fairness.

Berman also noted that other high-profile cases had been tried in the Manhattan court before, including those of Mohammed Salameh and Ramzi Yousef, convicted of helping plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for Rahimi, said after the hearing the motion could be renewed once questioning of potential jurors begins.

A judge in New Jersey state court, where Rahimi faces separate charges, has also refused to move the case.

Motions like Rahimi’s are rarely granted, even in high-profile cases. For example, federal judges refused to move the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, despite massive pretrial media coverage.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

New Jersey teen pleads guilty in plot to assassinate the Pope

Pope Francis celebrates his final mass of his visit to the United States at the Festival of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to terrorists in what media called an ISIS-inspired effort to kill Pope Francis in 2015 during a public Mass in Philadelphia, according to a statement by federal prosecutors.

Santos Colon, 17, admitted on Monday in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey, that he attempted to conspire with a sniper to shoot the Pope during his visit in Philadelphia and set off explosive devices in the surrounding areas.

Colon engaged with someone he thought would be the sniper from June 30 to August 14, 2015, but the person was actually an undercover FBI employee, according to prosecutors. The attack did not take place, and FBI agents arrested Colon in 2015.

“Colon engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source and instructed the source to purchase materials to make explosive devices,” prosecutors said in a statement on Monday.

A U.S. citizen from Lindenwold, New Jersey, Colon was charged as an adult with one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists on Monday and faces up to 15 years in prison.

What motivated the attempted attack was not immediately known to Reuters. NBC News reported that prosecutors said Colon admitted the terror plot was inspired by the Islamic State.

Prosecutors and the defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Colon also faces a fine of $250,000, or twice the amount of any financial gain or loss from the offense, prosecutors said. No date has been set for sentencing and the investigation is ongoing.

The Pope visited Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27, 2015, to hold a public Mass, attracting hundreds of thousands of people during his biggest event in the United States.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Accused bomber to be arraigned on New Jersey charges Thursday

A policeman takes a photo of a man they identified as Ahmad Khan Rahami, who is wanted for questioning in connection with an explosion in New York City, as he is placed into an ambulance in Linden, New Jersey, in this still image taken from video

Oct 11 (Reuters) – A man accused of bombings in New York and New Jersey last month that injured dozens is set to be arraigned on New Jersey state charges on Thursday, one of his attorneys said on Tuesday.

Ahmad Khan Rahami, who was born in Afghanistan, is set to be arraigned at the Union County Courthouse by video feed from his hospital room where he is recovering from gunshot wounds suffered during his arrest, Alexander Shalom said. Union County prosecutors charged Rahami with five counts of attempted murder of a police officer and weapons charges.

Shalom, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, is temporarily representing Rahami on separate federal charges until public defenders can take over the case.

Rahami, 28, has been held in a Newark, New Jersey, hospital with wounds suffered during a shootout with police on Sept. 19 when he was arrested. He faces federal charges in both states stemming from a bombing the previous weekend in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood that injured 31 people, and explosives found in two New Jersey locations. No one was killed in the blasts.

He also is accused of planting another pressure-cooker bomb in Chelsea that failed to explode, and multiple devices at a
train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of those exploded as a bomb squad robot attempted to defuse it.

Authorities described Rahami as a “jihadist” who begged for martyrdom and praised late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Rahami bought bomb components on eBay, made a video of himself testing out homemade explosives, and kept a journal expressing outrage at the U.S. “slaughter” of mujahideen in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Syria and the Palestinian Territories, federal officials allege.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler)