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Man Accused Of Helping San Bernardino Shooters Pleads Not Guilty

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Last month's mass shooting in San Bernardino did renew the debate on gun control. And now the man prosecutors say bought some of the guns used in that assault is pleading not guilty to charges of assisting terrorism. Matt Guilhem of member station KVCR was at yesterday's arraignment and has this report.

MATT GUILHEM, BYLINE: Unlike his last court appearance in mid-December, Enrique Marquez wasn't smiling broadly this time. His demeanor was more serious and his voice confident as he entered his not guilty plea. Wednesday's arraignment lasted all of about five minutes and went by the book.

LAURIE LEVENSON: Nothing surprising about this, they're just going to get him along the road on the way to trial.

GUILHEM: Laurie Levenson is a professor of criminal law at Loyola Law School. While the magistrate judge set a trial date of February 23, Levenson sees a host of strategies the defense could take to push the trial back. One delay could be getting access to documents.

LEVENSON: There might be an opportunity for the defense to try to get a look at classified information. And then that will be a big battle with what the prosecutors will or will not turn over in terms of national security.

GUILHEM: Depending on what happens in the pretrial phase, the tentative February 23 trial date could be more like late 2016. But Levenson says this case may not go to trial.

LEVENSON: I always think it's a viable option that a plea deal could be reached, even in a case that has the label, terrorism.

GUILHEM: As a former federal prosecutor herself, Levenson has her doubts the government will be in a dealing mood given the charges. However, if a reasonable prison sentence could be agreed upon by both sides, Levenson says a plea deal isn't out of the question. Earlier this week, the FBI began reaching out to the public to fill in a hole in its timeline of the day of the shooting. The bureau has accounted for shooters Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, for nearly four hours between the rampage and the pursuit by law enforcement. But there's an 18-minute blank space. Investigators want to know where the pair went and who, if anybody, they may have been in contact with in the missing 18-minute window. While the broader terrorism investigation continues, Marquez is slated to be back in court for a status hearing in early February. For NPR News, I'm Matt Guilhem in San Bernardino. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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