By Tom Hays, The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - A former police officer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he spread panic in a Times Square subway station by setting off a pipe bomb.
A judge declared Joseph Rodriguez, 28, fit to go forward with the felony arson case after reviewing results of a psychological exam. His bail was set at $200,000.
The former officer, who has been jailed since his arrest on July 31, appeared in the Manhattan courtroom wearing thick dark glasses and a neck brace. His "not guilty" plea barely rose above a whisper.
The homemade bomb was detonated on July 19 during Rodriguez's last tour as a transit officer. The blast left him slightly injured; it also frightened commuters, delayed train service and prompted a massive response by police on high alert for terrorism.
The next day Rodriguez retired with a disability pension based on an earlier claim that he was traumatized by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, when he helped victims flee the scene before injuring his knee.
In a failed bid for lower bail, defense attorney Edgar DeLeon noted that the subway explosion caused no serious injuries or property damage.
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Prosecutors said Rodriquez made incriminating statements and his fingerprints were on a bag that contained the bomb.