sfo03.jpgA Yemeni man who allegedly tried to storm the cockpit of a San Francisco-bound jet pleaded not guilty in federal court today to an indictment charging him with interfering with a flight crew.

Rageh al-Murisi, 28, was ordered by U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Corley to return to court in San Francisco on June 23 for an appearance before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, who will preside over his not-yet-scheduled trial.

Al-Murisi, who is being held in custody without bail, is accused of trying to open the locked cockpit door of an America Airlines plane as it neared San Francisco International Airport on May 8 and then ramming the door with his shoulder.

He was subdued by flight attendants and at least three passengers, including two retired law enforcement officers and an off-duty pilot.

A former defense attorney and another magistrate have said al-Murisi appears to have mental health problems.

U.S. Magistrate James Larson wrote in a detention order on May 19 that al-Murisi told the court’s pretrial services staff that “he has had hallucinations for approximately one year, and that the hallucinations have worsened in the past one to two months.”

Al-Murisi met with a doctor on Monday, according to his current lawyer, Christopher Morales.

Larson denied bail at a May 13 hearing on the ground that al-Murisi is both a flight risk and a danger to the community, and confirmed his ruling in the May 19 written order.

The indictment was issued by a federal grand jury on May 19 and contains the same charge as a criminal complaint previously filed by prosecutors, but the grand jury action means that no preliminary hearing is needed.

The charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if he is convicted.
Al-Murisi, a former math teacher in Yemen, has a wife and children in Yemen.

He entered the U.S. in January 2010 and lived with relatives in Vallejo for several months while looking for work. He then moved to New York, where he worked at several convenience stores before suddenly quitting a job a few days before he flew to San Francisco, according to Larson’s ruling.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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