A math teacher was ordered held without bail Wednesday by a New York judge who said he’s not comfortable freeing a man accused of getting students to help him assemble explosives at home.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan cited “very strong evidence” against Christian Toro, 27, in denying bail.
Cott ruled after Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Haft revealed that Toro and his brother had exchanged text messages discussing how Stephen Paddock had a police scanner when he fired from his high-rise hotel suite in Las Vegas last fall, killing 58 people at an outdoor country music festival.
Haft said Toro’s brother, Tyler, who also is charged in the case, sent a text message saying: “We need to invest in one.”
“Copy. I see a couple on Amazon,” the prosecutor said Toro responded.
Haft said a “veritable trove of extremely dangerous items” was recovered from the Bronx apartment where the brothers lived with their mother. She called him a “grave threat to society.”
The teacher was arrested last week on charges that he illegally manufactured a destructive device in a home where authorities said they found an index card with handwriting reading: “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.”
His lawyer, Amy Gallicchio, insisted that potential bomb ingredients including 5 pounds of potassium nitrate, 5 pounds of aluminum powder and 20 pounds of iron oxide were not assembled into a bomb and that the charges against her client should be thrown out.
“There is not a bomb,” she said. “There is no plan, no plot, no sinister motive, no connection to subversive groups.”
Cott responded: “There is no bomb. But what is alleged is that there are all the fixings of a bomb. Most evidence is almost always circumstantial and that doesn’t diminish its force.”
Toro resigned from the high school in Harlem after authorities said a 15-year-old student made a bomb threat in December. Last month, Toro was arrested on state charges alleging he took a girl to his home several times and raped her.
Authorities say the girl was also among students who were paid $50 an hour last fall to pull material for explosives from fireworks.
“It’s not science project material,” Haft said of items found in the apartment, which included seven boxes of fireworks, a magnesium strip that could serve as a fuse and ball bearings that could provide shrapnel in an explosion.
“If it were a legitimate science project, it would be done at school,” the magistrate judge said.
Gallicchio had requested $100,000 bail, citing financially secure family members who were supporting Toro. She described her client as peaceful and law abiding with no history of violence.
Cott, though, said he was not comfortable letting someone who used students “to assist in this enterprise” to remain free.
“Dangerousness is not limited to cases where a bomb is in fact found,” he said.