Judge extends hospitalization of truck attack plot suspect



GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A federal judge has extended the court-ordered hospitalization of a Maryland man deemed mentally unfit for trial on charges he planned an Islamic State-inspired attack at a shopping and entertainment complex near Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis said in a court filing Tuesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the ability of federal Bureau of Prisons medical staff to evaluate the defendant, Rondell Henry.

Henry, 29, of Germantown, Maryland, is charged with attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, the Islamic State group.

Police arrested Henry in March 2019 after seeing him exit a stolen U-Haul van and jump over a security fence at the National Harbor, a popular waterfront destination just outside the nation’s capital. Henry told investigators he planned to carry out an attack like one in which a driver ran over and killed dozens of people in Nice, France, in 2016, authorities said.

In February, Xinis ruled there was ample evidence that Henry isn’t mentally competent to stand trial. She ordered him to be held in a “suitable” federal Bureau of Prisons facility for up to four months so experts can determine whether he could be competent to be tried in the future.

Henry was supposed to be taken to the federal medical facility in Butner, North Carolina, for treatment. On Tuesday, however, the judge said the pandemic also has hampered the U.S. Marshal Service's ability to transport him. She extended Henry’s court-ordered hospitalization for up to four more months, giving prison officials more time to “initiate formal competency restoration procedures."

During a hearing last year, a federal prosecutor said Henry intended to kill as many “disbelievers” as possible.

Prosecutors have said Henry watched Islamic State group propaganda videos of foreign terrorists beheading civilians and fighting overseas. Investigators said they recovered a phone Henry had discarded on a highway in an apparent attempt to conceal evidence, including images of the Islamic State flag, armed Islamic State fighters and the man who carried out the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.

Henry is a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved to the country from Trinidad and Tobago more than a decade ago.

The terrorism charge that he faces is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Henry also faces a stolen vehicle charge that carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

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