Judge orders man to remain jailed over alleged Wichita bomb plot
WICHITA, Kan. _ A federal judge on Friday ordered that a man charged in an alleged plot to set off a bomb at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport remain in jail until his trial.
The judge's decision came after a prosecutor argued that Terry Lee Loewen is the "definition of a lone wolf terrorist" and one of his public defenders countered that Loewen deserved to be put on house arrest with electronic monitoring and that the government's case against him was "greatly exaggerated."
Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician who worked for an aviation business near the airport, was indicted Wednesday on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to destroy property with an explosive device and attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Loewen appeared in federal court in Wichita on Friday morning in a hearing to determine whether he should remain in jail pending his trial. Prosecutors argued that he posed a risk of fleeing and a risk to public safety.
At the conclusion of Friday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Humphreys said she found clear and convincing evidence that Loewen would pose a danger to the community and a risk of fleeing if he were released before his trial.
Humphreys said "the charges in this case are rare and unusual." It is uncommon for there to be so much evidence that is based on a defendant's own words, Humphreys said in her ruling. She said his words held great significance in her determination.
Authorities have said that in repeated communications with undercover FBI employees, Loewen expressed a desire to wage "violent jihad."
Although Loewen's public defenders asked that he be put on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Humphreys said she found there were no conditions of release that would assure the community's safety in the case.
She noted that he had expressed on several occasions "extreme hostility" toward the government and said that government is a menace to its citizens. So it's difficult to see him being supervised under release conditions set by a branch of government, she said.
The judge also told him: "I am giving you the presumption of innocence."
Humphreys also pointed to evidence that Loewen had told lies and been deceptive in allegedly plotting terrorism. Deception has to be considered as a factor in whether he would have been a good candidate for release, she said.
The judge agreed that he has lengthy ties to his community, a stable work history, a long marriage and that he doesn't use alcohol or drugs. But, Humphreys added, it appeared that his ties to the community seem to have been weakening and of a "superficial nature."
She referred to the allegation that Loewen was intending to cause maximum damage and carnage, and she described the evidence against him as appearing to be "solid, strong, convincing and in some ways overwhelming," partly based on his own words.
He seemed to have become radicalized, with his own words allegedly showing a drive to commit "violent jihad" and to become a martyr in an attack designed to cause maximum damage, she said.
"Those cannot be minimized," Humphreys concluded.
When asked if he agreed with his public defender that he understood the charges against him, Loewen said in a clear, firm voice to Humphreys, "Yes, ma'am."
His trial has initially been set for Feb. 18 before another judge.
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