Man who allegedly flew to LAX with grenade, body bags ordered held
A man who boarded a Los Angeles-bound plane from Japan wearing a bulletproof vest and flame retardant pants with knives, body bags and an alleged pyrotechnic smoke grenade in his checked luggage was ordered held without bail Friday by a federal judge who said the man was a flight risk.
Yongda Huang Harris, 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Chinese descent, was arrested Friday at LAX and faces a charge of transporting hazardous materials for the smoke grenade. U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams ordered Harris detained after hearing arguments from a prosecutor who said authorities found material on his computer that showed a sexual interest in young girls and an inclination to violence against children.
Asst. U.S. Atty Melissa Mills said Harris was a danger and a flight risk and that the materials were particularly concerning given the man had recently worked as a junior high school teacher in Japan. She added that authorities became aware of the man only one week earlier and were still developing the case.
Authorities have said Harris also had in his luggage three leather-coated billy clubs, a collapsible baton, a full-face respirator, a hatchet, a biohazard suit, handcuffs, leg irons and a device to repel dogs.
Harris’ attorney, Steven Seiden, told the judge his client was an educated young man with a stable family in Boston, and asked that he be released to his family so he would be able to attend his stepfather’s funeral. He said Harris had believed authorities in Asia who told him none of the items in his luggage were illegal.
Abrams said he believed the man was a flight risk because the materials found in Harris’ luggage and on his computer “at minimum show that he is not making good choices and may not be able to understand the consequences of his choices.” The judge said the issue of bond was a “close call” but said he was concerned by Harris’ history of traveling and working abroad.
Harris appeared in court in a white prison jumpsuit chained at the waist and ankles, wearing wire-frame glasses and a blue surgical mask his attorney said was due to a throat infection.
Outside court, Seiden called the prosecutor's statements about his client “highly inflammatory and prejudicial” and unrelated to the charge his client faces. He said his client was a “nice young man, shy and gentle,” who had a past experience of having been intimidated by “street thugs” in Boston and had reason to be concerned for his safety.
Harris is next due in court Oct. 23 for a preliminary hearing.
-- Victoria Kim