A man accused of planning an Islamic State-inspired attack at a shopping and entertainment complex near Washington, D.C., pleaded not guilty on Monday to a federal criminal charge.
Rondell Henry, 28, of Germantown, Maryland, was arraigned on one count of interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle. He was indicted April 10 on the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Henry hasn’t been charged with any terrorism-related offenses since police officers arrested him March 28. He remains detained in federal custody.
Henry allegedly stole a U-Haul van in Virginia and parked it at the National Harbor, a popular waterfront destination just outside the nation’s capital. Police arrested him the next morning after they found the van and saw Henry jump over a security fence from the boat deck.
Henry told investigators he planned to carry out a truck attack similar to one in which a driver ran over and killed dozens of people in Nice, France, in 2016, authorities said.
Henry’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Christian Lassiter, declined to comment after Monday’s brief hearing. Lassiter entered the plea on behalf of his client, who answered several routine questions from a magistrate judge.
A trial date hasn’t been set, but Lassiter and a prosecutor both estimated a jury trial would last six days.
During an April 9 detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas DiGirolamo ordered Henry held without bond while he awaits trial. The judge agreed with prosecutors that the defendant poses a danger to the public.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said during the earlier hearing that Henry intended to kill as many “disbelievers” as possible.
But a different public defender urged the court to be skeptical of authorities claims and argued that the government “is trying to fit certain facts into their narrative.”
Henry is a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to the country from Trinadad and Tobago about 11 years ago.
In a court filing, prosecutors said Henry watched Islamic State propaganda videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas, admiring their actions and considering them brave. Investigators said they recovered a phone Henry discarded on a highway in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence, including images of the Islamic State flag, armed Islamic State fighters and the man who carried out the Pulse nightclub massacre in an Orlando, Florida.
Henry initially considered an attack at Dulles International Airport on March 27, trying unsuccessfully over two hours to breach the security perimeter by slipping in through a checkpoint or accessing a restricted area, prosecutors said. Instead, he drove to the National Harbor later that morning, parked the truck, broke into a boat and hid there overnight, according to prosecutors.