Nation - New York Times Square car bomb suspect makes first appearance in court

By Colleen Long and Larry Neumeister

Associated Press Writers

NEW YORK (AP) -- Appearing relaxed and obedient, the man accused of plotting to kill Americans with a car bomb in Times Square made his first appearance in a Manhattan courtroom where he was told by a magistrate judge that he had the right to remain silent.

Authorities say Faisal Shahzad's willingness to talk kept him out of court for two weeks, speeding up the progress of an investigation into his May 1 plot to set off a homemade car bomb on a spring Saturday evening amid hundreds of people enjoying the tourist haven.

Authorities said shortly after Shahzad's May 3 arrest that he had admitted driving the SUV bomb into Times Square and told authorities he had received terror training during a recent five-month trip to Pakistan.

His cooperation did not eliminate the need to bring him to court Tuesday to face five charges, including attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and attempted acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, each of which carry potential penalties of life in prison.

The hearing lasted only 10 minutes. Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen, confirmed with a "yes" that his financial affidavit was accurate, permitting him to be appointed an assistant public defender, Julia Gatto, who declined to comment afterward.

Shahzad, wearing a gray sweat suit and with his hair a bit longer than in photos splashed around the world, was treated like any other prisoner, except for the extra court officers on hand. The courtroom was closed just before his appearance for a security sweep.

There was also no sign that Shahzad had secured any special benefits from his cooperation, though he was wearing a sweatsuit rather than a prison uniform. When the hearing ended, he stood up and handcuffs were put on his wrists behind his back. He walked out without looking at spectators, including mostly prosecutors, investigators and reporters.

Magistrate Judge James C. Francis read him his rights and warned him that anything he might say could be used against him. He was detained without bail in the attack in which the bomb never exploded and no one was hurt.

The ex-budget analyst from Bridgeport, Conn., was arrested two days after the attempted attack from a Dubai-bound plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

In addition to the most serious charges, Shahzad was also charged with using a destructive device in an attempted violent crime, punishable by up to 30 years in prison; transporting and receiving explosives, punishable by up to 10 years; and attempting to damage and destroy property with fire and explosives, punishable by five to 20 years.

Since his arrest, Shahzad "has provided valuable intelligence from which further investigative action has been taken," the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan said in a statement Tuesday.

Published: Thu, May 20, 2010