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NY terror case yet to go to grand jury

Jose Pimentel, who is accused of terrorism-related charges,

Jose Pimentel, who is accused of terrorism-related charges, appears in Manhattan Criminal Court. (Nov. 20, 2011) Credit: Pool photo / Jefferson Siegel

A terror case against a Manhattan man charged with plotting pipe bomb attacks on police and soldiers has yet to go to a grand jury nearly two months after his arrest, and prosecutors and his lawyer are allowing more time before authorities seek an indictment, his lawyer said.

Jose Pimentel had been set to learn Monday whether he'd been indicted in an unusual terror case brought under state instead of federal laws. But defense lawyer Lori B. Cohen said Friday that both sides had agreed to extend the time frame, probably for about a month and a half, as she reviewed information about the case.

Prosecutors are "giving us some discovery to find out more about the case," she said, using a legal term for information. She wouldn't elaborate.

The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment.

Pimentel, 27, is being held without bail on charges including weapons possession and conspiracy as terror crimes. It's unclear whether he will have to appear at today's court date.

The Dominican-born al-Qaida sympathizer, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, was arrested Nov. 19 while making a pipe bomb in an informant's Harlem apartment, authorities said. He later told police he was about an hour from finishing the weapon, they said.

He maintained a website detailing his belief in holy war, or jihad, and told an informant he wanted to attack targets that included police cars, post offices and soldiers returning home from abroad, authorities said.

A previous defense lawyer said Pimentel wasn't a true danger or devious plotter, noting that he aired his extremist ideas on the Web. But police and prosecutors say Pimentel was a clear threat.

State law limits how long someone charged with a felony can be held without an indictment or hearing. But defense lawyers sometimes agree to allow more time if they feel their clients could benefit from more investigation, a fuller presentation to the grand jury or discussions with prosecutors.

The deadline has been extended twice before in Pimentel's case.

Most terror cases are federal, but some New York prosecutors also have made use of a state terror law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Two law enforcement officials have said the FBI stayed out of the Pimentel case because agents felt he didn't have the inclination or ability to act without the informant's involvement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said police kept federal authorities in the loop all along before circumstances forced investigators to act fast using state charges.

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