US air passenger refused bail after arsenal seized
10/12/2012 9:09:38 PM
A US judge refused bail Friday for a man found wearing body armor and transporting body bags and an arsenal of weapons, including a smoke grenade, on a flight from Asia to Los Angeles.
Yongda Huang Harris, a naturalized US citizen of Chinese descent, was charged with transporting hazardous materials after he was detained last Friday at Los Angeles International (LAX) airport.
Citing the 28-year-old's history of foreign travel, overseas employment and no significant ties to the LA area, judge Paul L. Abrams said Harris was a flight risk and therefore refused him bail.
Prosecutor Melissa Mills said evidence indicating a "strong interest in sexual violence" against girls was found on a computer Harris owned.
The defendant, who lived in Japan recently and was heading for Boston, appeared in court with a blue surgical mask over his nose, which his lawyer said was due to a throat infection.
He was detained "wearing a bulletproof vest and flame retardant pants underneath his trench coat," the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said.
Further investigation of his checked luggage turned up a "pyrotechnic smoke grenade," along with a hatchet, knives, a gas mask, biohazard suits and body bags, according to an ICE statement issued earlier this week.
Agents also found three leather-coated billy clubs, a collapsible baton, a full-face respirator, leg irons and a device to repel dogs, said an affidavit by officers with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a division of ICE.
The document accused Harris of "willfully or recklessly transporting a smoke grenade in his checked luggage on a flight from Kansai, Japan, via Incheon, Korea, to LAX."
If it had exploded, the smoke grenade could have filled the aircraft cabin with smoke or caused a fire on board.
US investigators are coordinating with their counterparts in Tokyo, it said, adding that Harris has a permanent home in Boston, but "has been living and working recently in Japan."
A spokesman for Kansai International Airport in the western Japanese city of Osaka said Japanese aviation authorities had been contacted by their US counterparts, but added that Harris' flight had not originated in Japan.
"The man flew from China to Kansai. He stopped over at Incheon and then went to LA. I believe we did not detect any suspicious items" while he was at Kansai, the official said, without specifying where in China Harris boarded.
Harris could face up to five years in prison if convicted. He is due to appear in court again on October 23 for a preliminary hearing.