HILLSBOROUGH, North Carolina: A man who allegedly told authorities he intentionally ran down people on the University of North Carolina’s campus to avenge Muslims on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to nine counts of assault and attempted murder.
Mohammed Taheri-Azar, a 23-year-old native of Iran, is accused of striking nine people when he drove a rented sport-utility vehicle through a popular student gathering place. None of the people was seriously wounded and Taheri-Azar called authorities minutes after the incident to surrender.
Taheri-Azar allegedly told the dispatcher he wanted to “punish the government of the United States for their actions around the world.” Taheri-azar later told investigators he intentionally ran down people to “avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world,” authorities have said.
In letters to the media, he said he intended to avenge the United States’ treatment of Muslims in the Middle East.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said Tuesday he may ask reporters who received letters from Taheri-Azar to testify in the case.
“The issue is not confidentiality,” Woodall said. “The media is still just a witness if you do something publicly.”
Taheri-Azar, who graduated from the university in December 2005, had earlier said he intended to plead guilty to the charges.
Asked why his client had not entered that plea, Taheri-Azar’s attorney, James Williams said only, “That’s a very good question.” He declined additional comment.
He remains is being held in prison with bond set at $5.5 million (€4.23 million). A hearing for procedural matters is set for March 27.
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