Three Inland Empire men accused of plotting violent jihad and wanting to join Al-Qaeda pleaded "not guilty" Wednesday in a Riverside courtroom.
The three young men - Arifeen David Gojali, 21, of Riverside, Ralph Kenneth Deleon, 23, of Ontario, and Miguel Vidriales Santana, 21, of Upland - appeared in court in orange jumpsuits, and sat expressionless and silent throughout the brief proceeding.
They were indicted on a charge of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorist. If convicted, the three could be sentenced to up to 15 years in federal prison.
Judge Oswald Parada set a trial date for January 22nd, but defense lawyer Robert Scott says the trial is probably at least a year away.
“If we were to go to trial on the 22nd, we’d be unprepared…we’d have nothing,” said Scott.
Scott said he and the other lawyers need time to review all the evidence the government is expected to present at the 4-6 week trial,which he calls “voluminous.”
“I understand there’s a lot of wiretaps,” Scott said. “There’s just a lot of material.”
Scott represents Vidriales Santana. He described his client as “scared” and “just a kid.”
Scott also said the alleged mastermind in the case - Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34 – was brought back to Riverside from Afghanistan in a government rendition and already appeared in court.
He expects Kabir to eventually be tried alongside the other defendants.
“The logical thing would be for them to bring him into the case,” said Scott.
The government alleges Kabir – who used to live in Pomona – recruited the three other defendants and introducedthem to the "radical and violent Islamic doctrine” of Anwar al-Awlaki.
Kabir was waiting for the three in Afghanistan, where they allegedly planned to bomb government facilities and kill U.S. personnel.