— The lanky Ellicott City teenager and Pakistani citizen walked into the federal courtroom here on Monday dressed in an olive drab, one-piece prison jumpsuit, his hands cuffed behind his back, and muttered barely two words during his arraignment on terrorism charges — "not guilty."
And with that, the public proceeding began for one of the country's youngest people charged with aiding a terrorist. A U.S. District Court judge ordered Mohammad Massan Khalid detained until his trial, scheduled for Dec. 13, and defense attorneys asked for a hearing next month to find an alternate holding facility for their young client.
Outside the courtroom, Khalid's lawyer, Jeffrey M. Lindy, disputed the government's allegations that the Mount Hebron High School graduate who recently turned 18 conspired over the Internet to funnel money to a convicted terrorist from the Philadelphia suburbs who called herself "Jihad Jane."
"I dispute that he is a terrorist," Lindy said, adding that he believes federal prosecutors are reading too much into emails they allege that his client sent to Colleen R. LaRose, who pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to provide terrorist support and kill in a foreign country.
Khalid grew up in Ellicott City and lived in an apartment building near U.S. 29 and Baltimore National Pike with his parents, brother and two sisters. His family has declined to be interviewed.
Federal authorities secretly arrested the Howard County teen in July, when he was 17, an unusual detention of a minor. His case and indictment had been sealed until he turned 18; his attorneys said Monday's hearing was virtually identical to one held several months ago in a closed courtroom.
At the time of his arrest, Khalid had graduated from high school and was on his way to the Johns Hopkins University, where he'd won a full scholarship to study science or math. He was also an aspiring writer who received an honorable mention in a contest last year for an essay titled "Voices Around the World." A Hopkins spokesman has said that Khalid withdrew from the university after his arrest.
Lindy and another defense attorney, Alan J. Tauber, described Khalid's parents as devoted to their children's education. They said Khalid's father emigrated from Pakistan before the rest of his family so that he could find work and scout out good schools.
"It's a true American immigrant story," Tauber said in an interview. Added his colleague, Lindy, "That has turned into a nightmare."
Khalid's relatives were not in the courtroom on Monday; Lindy said he told them not to come because the hearing would be so quick. Lindy spent a few minutes chatting with Khalid after two members of the U.S. Marshal's Service escorted the handcuffed defendant into the courtroom, at times rubbing his back.
Khalid gave short answers to U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker, saying he understood his rights and that he would speak honestly. His only other words were "not guilty," which were barely audible even though he spoke into a microphone. He kept his head down through most of the proceeding.
The judge set a hearing date of Nov. 16 to hear arguments from Lindy about moving the suspect from where he is being detained now, at an adult federal holding facility, to someplace less restrictive.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer A. Williams did not talk about the case during court. Khalid was indicted along with Ali Charaf Darnache, a 46-year-old Algerian who is not yet in custody.
The indictment, which was made public last week, charges that in 2008 or 2009, when Khalid was 15 years old, he worked with other conspirators to create a "violent jihad organization" with people in the U.S. and Europe, who were to be divided into teams and assigned various tasks, including planning, research, finance and "action."
Some of the members were expected to travel to South Asia for "explosives training" and wage holy war in Europe, according to the indictment. It's unclear from the court papers how Khalid allegedly connected with LaRose, who prosecutors said plotted to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims by drawing the Prophet Muhammad's head on the body of a dog.
The two are first linked through a July 8, 2009, email that prosecutors say LaRose forwarded to Khalid asking for money. He is alleged to have responded, "I have waited for this 'donation' moment for so long and I want to make sure that everything is true so that the money reaches … the hands of brothers who are true to their intentions and are REAL mujahids not some fbi hungry agents."
That same day, prosecutors say, Khalid posted a request for funds on an online forum on LaRose's behalf, writing that "the sister has been in touch with a brother … [who] has appealed for urgent funds stating that his resources are limited. … The sister has provided me with proofs that have confirmed that the brother is … true."
Lindy, Khalid's attorney, called the case an "Internet prosecution" and said that "I think prosecutors are reading far more into this and don't have what they think they have."
Baltimore Sun reporter Tricia Bishop contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, CT Now