(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - Alleged al-Qaida sympathizer Jose Pimentel, who is charged with plotting to attack police and soldiers with homemade bombs, pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan courthouse Tuesday to rarely used state-level terrorism charges.
Pimentel, 27, reportedly whispered "not guilty" in a case authorities describe as bringing down an overt al-Qaida sympathizer who was building a pipe bomb to act on his violent beliefs.
His defense attorneys call the case an example of police overreaching. "We think that when a jury hears both sides of this case, they'll see it for what it really is," one of his lawyers, Susan J. Walsh, said as she left court.
Pimentel is a Dominican-born Muslim convert also known as Muhammad Yusuf. Authorities say Pimentel had a website detailing his belief in jihad, or holy war, and said he believed Muslims were obligated to attack Americans as retaliation for U.S. military involvement in Muslim countries.
Police said Pimentel told an informant he wanted to attack targets that included police cars and stations, post offices and soldiers returning home from abroad, authorities said. He was arrested while making his homemade bomb in November, authorities say.
"Jose Pimentel engaged in a plot to build improvised explosive devices and use them to commit acts of violent jihad," crossing a line between rhetoric and trying to take action, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement after Pimentel was indicted last month on charges including weapons possession and conspiracy as terror crimes. Both carry the possibility of up to life in prison if Pimentel is convicted.