The 28-year old man who was arrested in Los Angeles earlier this week for having a smoke grenade in his checked-in luggage will be pleading not guilty, according to his lawyer’s spokesperson. Yongda Huang Harris, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was traveling from Osaka, Japan to the U.S., passing by Seoul, to attend a funeral in Boston. Harris works as an English teacher in Japan.
Harris attracted Customs and Border Patrol’s attention primarily because he was wearing a bulletproof vest and flame-retardant pants. When his luggage was checked, however, several suspicious items were discovered, including knives, leather-coated billy clubs, large duffel bags, a biohazard suit, handcuffs, and more. These items, some of which can be classified as weapons, were allowed by the Transportation Security Administration because they were in the checked luggage, out of reach of passengers. But the smoke grenade that was discovered along with the items are classified as an explosive and is, therefore, illegal even in checked luggage. Both Japan and South Korea insisted that they strictly followed security protocol and that Harris didn’t raise any suspicions nor broke any local laws.
Chris Williams, spokesperson for Harris’ lawyer, said that Harris was advised not to speak to investigators about the questioned items, invoking his right against self-incrimination. Williams insists that the man’s attire is just a fashion statement. He adds that Harris is not being held as a terrorist and that they are planning to fight the charges. If convicted, Harris could be facing a five-year prison sentence.
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