Terrorism suspect from Riverside ordered held without bail
This post has been corrected; see note at bottom for details.
A Riverside man arrested on suspicion of plotting to join Al Qaeda with three other suspects was ordered Monday to be held without bail until trial.
Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym found that Arifeen Gojali, 21, was too much of a flight risk and danger to the community, based on the allegations by federal investigators, to be released.
Gojali appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Riverside wearing a bright orange jail-issued uniform, bound by handcuffs and leg irons that jingled as he was led into the courtroom by U.S. Marshals. He showed little emotion during the hearing, only briefly chatting with his defense attorney.
Gojali’s attorney, John Aquilina, told the judge that neither his client nor his family had the financial means to post bail.
“If we can’t get over that hurdle, what’s the point," Aquilina explained to reporters outside the courtroom after the brief hearing concluded.
Gojali and three other men from the Inland Empire have been accused of plotting to join Al Qaeda or the Taliban in Afghanistan to attack American troops or coalition forces.
Gojali and two other suspects, Ralph Deleon of Ontario, 24, and Miguel Santana of Upland were arrested during a vehicle stop in Chino on Nov. 16, a day after they booked airline tickets from Mexico to Afghanistan.
Deleon and Santana are being held without bail. The alleged ringleader, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, was taken into custody the next day. Kabir has lived in Pomona and served a year in the U.S. Air Force.
The native Afghan and naturalized U.S. citizen converted Deleon and Santana to Islam in 2010, then left for Afghanistan, intent on joining the Taliban or Al Qaeda and paving the way for Santana and Deleon to join him, according to authorities.
Santana and Deleon allegedly recruited Gojali in September. Deleon’s attorney, Randolph K. Driggs, last week criticized the federal government’s case for hinging on evidence gathered by a paid confidential informant who had been convicted of drug-related charges.
The informant, who received $250,000 from the FBI and "immigration benefits" for his work over the four years, infiltrated the group in March and wore recording devices that provided evidence crucial to the case.
[For the record, Nov. 27, 6:56 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the first name of suspect Ralph Deleon was Bart.]
-- Phil Willon in Riverside
Photo: The former house of Arifeen Gojali on Nov. 20 in Pomona. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press