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Los Angeles airport worker pleads innocent to planting dry bombs

By Dana Feldman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An airport employee charged in connection with three dry ice bombs planted at Los Angeles International Airport pleaded not guilty on Tuesday, and his lawyer called him a "good guy" facing harsh treatment in the case.

Miguel Angel Iniguez, 41, entered his not guilty plea on charges of possessing a destructive device near an airplane during a brief hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, and was ordered held on $500,000 bond. Handcuffed and dressed in street clothes, he spoke only in response to questions from the judge.

Iniguez was due back in court on Wednesday, along with his co-defendant, 28-year-old Dicarlo Bennett, for a hearing at which defense lawyers for both men were expected to ask that their bail be reduced.

"He's a good guy and we'll get him out of this," his attorney, Gustavo Barcena, told reporters outside of court.

Barcena said the case was a hardship on his client, who was married with four children between the ages of 3 and 16 and who underwent a kidney transplant operation several years ago. He said Iniguez, a supervisor for airport contractor Servisair, had no criminal record or disciplinary issues at work.

"Unfortunately, with this type of a charge the minimum penalty is very harsh," Barcena said. "The minimum penalty for this type of charge is two years. No exception, no probation."

Authorities have identified Iniguez as a supervisor of 28-year-old Bennett, a Servisair baggage handler who pleaded not guilty on Thursday to similar charges and was being held on $1 million bail.

In an incident authorities said had no connection to terrorism, one of the bombs detonated on October 13 in an employee restroom and the second exploded outside the international terminal a day later, causing some flight disruptions. A third device was found unexploded.

The type of blast caused by dry ice is typically created by putting it into a bottle or other container and sealing it tightly, which allows pressure to build until it explodes.

Los Angeles Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon said last week that Bennett intended the ice bombs to be a prank, but added: "It's not a prank and it's going to be dealt with very seriously."

Bennett is suspected of having obtained the dry ice via his job at the airport, prompting officials there to announce that they would change policies regarding handling of the materials.

Bennett's lawyer, Ben Wasserman, has said the charges against his client were too severe, and that Bennett had no intent to cause any destruction.

In May, a similar device went off at Disneyland, forcing evacuation of a section of the park in Anaheim, California.

(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andre Grenon)

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