Federal authorities said in court Thursday that a Pennsylvania man knew he had a banned explosive in a suitcase he checked at an airport this week.
Marc Muffley, 40, faces federal charges after officials found an explosive device Monday at Lehigh Valley International Airport, authorities said. He was arrested Monday night at his home in Lunsford hours after the incident, the FBI said.
Muffley appeared in court Thursday afternoon via video from the Lehigh County Jail, wearing a Navy inmate uniform.
The hearing began with federal prosecutor Sherry Stephan reading the charges: possession of an explosive device and attempting to place it on an airplane.
FBI Special Agent Eddie Garcia, the arresting officer and the person who interviewed Muffley, told Stephan he was called to the airport on Monday and arrived with his partner and two bomb technicians, who arrested Muffley after finding an explosive.
Garcia said Muffley “knew the explosives, the lithium battery and the butane lighter were in his bag and knew they were prohibited except for the lighter,” adding, “He knew they were in his bag and he wasn’t allowed.”
Muffley’s attorney, Jonathan McDonald, asked Garcia if what was found was a manufactured firework, to which Garcia replied, “Maybe.” Garcia said he recorded the interview and that he was the one who used the word “explosive,” not Muffley.
Stephan went on to say that Muffley had created a very dangerous situation when he checked “very strange things”, including an explosive device that technicians said had two fuses. Muffley checked the bag, intending to put it on the plane to Orlando, Florida, authorities said.
McDonald said there was no lab report and argued it was just an opinion that the device was explosive, saying it was “just a firework in a bag”.
McDonald said the commercial-grade firework was not an explosive like dynamite, a bomb or a Molotov cocktail and did not meet the definition of an explosive.
Prosecutors argued that Muffley was a flight risk and a danger to the community because he had prior arrests and convictions and left the airport for a nearby park and called his girlfriend, who had just dropped him off, to pick him up.
Court documents in Pennsylvania show he has a history of relatively minor offenses, including theft and assault.
McDonald asked for pretrial release, saying Muffley was not a flight risk and had ties to the community and could wear an ankle bracelet.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Carlos sided with the prosecution and ordered Muffley to be remanded in custody by U.S. Marshals pending further proceedings.
In a criminal complaint, prosecutors said the airport’s Transportation Security Administration contacted the FBI on Monday after TSA officials believed they had found an explosive in a suitcase Muffley checked on a flight bound for Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida. .
The complaint said authorities found a “circular joint, approximately three inches in diameter, wrapped in wax-like paper and clear plastic wrap hidden in the luggage liner, among other items.”
A bomb technician inspected the circular compound and found it contained “a granular type of powder hidden within the wax paper and plastic wrap,” according to the complaint.
The complaint stated that based on the technician’s training, “this granular type of powder is compatible with a commercial grade firework,” adding, “This granular powder is suspected to be a mixture of flash powder and the dark granules used in commercial grade fireworks.”
There were two fuses at the compound, according to the FBI affidavit. One was a “quick safety” and appeared to be on it when it was originally built, and the other was a “hobby safety” that appeared to be added later, the affidavit said.
Also inside the bag were a can of butane, a lighter, a pipe with white powder residue, a cordless drill and two electrical outlets taped together, he said.
The feds said in the complaint that “both black powder and glow powder are susceptible to ignition by heat and friction and pose a significant hazard to the aircraft and passengers.”