Bail denied in NY airport pipe bomb case

October 17, 2008 5:37:59 PM PDT
A Las Vegas man broke down sobbing and hugged a relative as he was led away by marshals Friday on charges that he tried to board a plane with a pipe bomb, knife, a bag of marijuana and an array suspicious electronics in his luggage. U.S. Magistrate A. Kathleen Tomlinson ruled that Steven Nobles, 20, poses a danger to the community and should remain in jail until his trial on charges including carrying a weapon or explosive on an aircraft. If convicted, Nobles faces up to 20 years in prison, although prosecutors said it would likely be far less time.

Tomlinson made her ruling after federal defender Randi Chavis pleaded that Nobles' intent was not nefarious and that he told authorities the items were inadvertently left in his bags when he went to Long Island-MacArthur Airport early Thursday morning.

Chavis said the pipe bomb had been made by Nobles to explode during a July 4th celebration over the summer, but had somehow been misplaced. It was not immediately clear how it got into Nobles' carryon bag.

Chavis said the suspect's uncle, with whom Nobles had worked as a laborer for the past 14 months, offered to post his Selden home as bond. She referred to her client's actions as an "immature but somewhat explainable affection or willingness to be around these kinds of devices."

The judge said she was troubled by the number and variety of items found in both a carryon bag and a piece of checked luggage. A complaint said Nobles was stopped during a routine screening inside the airport terminal before his Southwest Airlines flight to Las Vegas.

Transportation Security Administration security officers first noticed a 7-inch folding knife in Nobles' bag, followed by the pipe bomb. A subsequent check of the man's checked luggage revealed fireworks, electrical circuit boards, a battery with electrical tape and more than a dozen .22-caliber rounds used in a nailgun to drive nails into concrete.

The discovery led to the evacuation of about 500 passengers for two hours.

"I'm not sure how a rational person carries a pipe bomb into an airport terminal ... and doesn't expect the consequences he faces now," the judge said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said additional charges were possible, noting that a bag of marijuana also was found in Nobles' carryon bag.

Nobles has no apparent criminal record as an adult, but was arrested as a juvenile in Las Vegas on a charge of illegally discharging a firearm. That case was sealed by the court, and no details were available.

Chavis, in her argument for bail, said Nobles had come to live and work with his uncle at some point after the sealed incident when he was 17. She said since moving to Long Island 14 months ago, he had become a reliable employee of his uncle's, working as a laborer, and had no further involvement with law enforcement.

Nobles had planned to move back to Las Vegas on Thursday.

After the judge's ruling, Nobles fought back tears and slumped in his seat. As he was led away by federal marshals, he broke down sobbing as he hugged his uncle, who was seated in the front row of the gallery.

Neither the uncle, Frank Henderson, nor Chavis, wanted to comment after the court proceeding. Durham also declined to comment outside the courtroom.

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