Marine Reservist Held in Pentagon Scare in Court Monday

The Marine reservist taken into custody Friday after a bomb scare near the Pentagon has been transferred to the Loudoun County jail.

Yonathan Melaku, 22, appeared in Loudoun County General District Court Monday for grand larceny charges stemming from more than two dozen Leesburg-area car break-ins.  He will appear again on Thursday.  Authorities are holding him without bond until then.

During the brief hearing, nothing was said about his detention Friday after U.S. Park Police observed him at Arlington National Cemetery after dark, The Associated Press reported. Melaku's behavior after he was confronted by police prompted massive road closures during the Friday morning rush hour as officials investigated the contents of his backpack for what they initially feared might be bomb-making materials. Police said he left his vehicle parked in a wooded area also close to the Department of Defense. They found no explosives on Melaku or in his car. His Alexandria home also was searched.

Melaku is a lance corporal with the Marine Reserves, and has received two honors: the National Defense Service Award and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal.

Leesburg police said they discovered 27 damaged cars in late May, many with their windows broken.

Melaku made his court appearance Monday via a video hookup from the Loudoun County jail, where he was in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit, the Associated Press reported. The larcenies for which he was charged allegedly occurred on May 26, and are in addition to four other larceny charges previously filed against him. Prosecutor Amy Totten would not comment on why the additional charges were filed against Melaku only after he was arrested Friday by federal authorities.

Melaku's attorney on the previous larceny charges, Robert May, was not at the hearing. Melaku said during the hearing that he was concerned he would be unable to get in touch with May because he'd used his two free phone calls.

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information said investigators found Melaku with what appeared to be a notebook with the words “Al-Qaida” and “Taliban Rules” written inside, the Associated Press reported. It was not clear in what context those words had been written down.

No federal charges have been filed so far, but his detention on state charges gives federal authorities more time to investigate Friday's incident and determine whether any crimes were committed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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