Judge Orders LAX Smoke Grenade Traveler to Be Held Without Bond
Comstock/Jupiter Images(LOS ANGELES) — A federal court has ordered that the man accused of having a smoke grenade and other suspicious objects in his luggage at Los Angeles International Airport remain detained, citing concerns he poses a flight risk and troubling contents found on his personal computer.
Yongda Huang Harris was arrested last Friday when he arrived on overseas flight to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) wearing what appeared to be a ballistic vest, knee pads and fire-resistant leggings.
His unusual attire, law enforcement sources said, drew the attention of customs agents. They searched his luggage and found a smoke grenade — a prohibited item on an airplane — and other items including handcuffs, a hatchet, body bags, billy clubs and a bio-hazard suit.
Harris is charged with transporting a hazardous material –the smoke grenade — and faces up to five years in prison.
Harris’ lawyer had sought to have him released pending trial. But prosecutors argued Harris had no significant ties in Los Angeles and is an experienced overseas traveler, making him a significant flight risk. Federal Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams ordered him held without bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Mills told the court that pornography of a disturbing nature was found on Harris’ computer, some of it a type of Japanese anime depicting the torture of young children. Other pornography included live action video clips with titles such as “School Girls in Cement.”
Harris worked as an English teacher at a Japanese middle school and had regular access to children.
Investigators are working with authorities in Japan to examine Harris’ recent past. His attorney said he has no criminal history or violent tendencies.
Mills also told the court that investigators found troubling writings about murder, kidnapping, torture and “man trapping” on Harris’ laptop. The computer files contained research materials about date rape drugs, Japanese school schedules and remote locations near schools.
Harris entered the court in a white jumpsuit and handcuffs. He had on his glasses and a blue surgical face mask, which he wore, his lawyer Steven Seiden said, because he has a throat infection. Harris, who appeared to be shy and scared, looked down during arguments but engaged with his attorney during the entire hearing.
Seiden described his client to the court as an intelligent loner who was returning to Massachusetts to attend the funeral of his stepfather, who died days before.
Seiden said he was gentle and only had the items because he was still afraid after being attacked years ago in the Massachusetts neighborhood where he grew up.
That incident, Seiden said, “left a mark on him and how he feels towards himself and others.”
Harris’ unusual attire — the mock ballistic vest, knee pads and leggings — were a fashion statement, his attorney said. And the unusual assortment of weapons, restraints and protective gear found in his luggage were not intended for violence. Seiden said his client’s interests are not the norm, but that Harris had no intent to harm anyone.
The defense stressed that Japanese security found “nothing suspicious about Harris,” and found none of the items to be illegal.
After the hearing, Seiden pushed back against the notion that his client would flee, saying Harris, “hasn’t has even failed to appear for a traffic ticket. … He hasn’t fled anywhere. He taught in Asia and came back to the United States, where he is a citizen of this country.”
Seiden challenged the government’s presentation to the court as having little to do with the substance of the charge.
“A lot of the comments made by the government were highly defamatory and prejudicial to my client,” Seiden said.
A pretrial hearing is set for Oct. 23.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
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