Mohammad Hassan Khalid, 18, of Ellicott City, Md., a Baltimore suburb, entered the plea at his first public court appearance since his July 6 arrest.
The reed-thin, serious-looking young man appeared older than his years. He had no family or friends in the Philadelphia courtroom. His parents, legal U.S. residents from Pakistan who had pushed their four children to excel in school, were working, a defense lawyer said.
Federal prosecutors allege that Khalid tried to recruit men to wage a holy war in Europe and South Asia, and women with passports who could travel there. He had met a middle-aged Pennsylvania woman, Colleen LaRose, in online chat rooms when he was about 15, according to last week's indictment. LaRose was being watched by the FBI after posting YouTube videos in which she dubbed herself "Jihad Jane" and vowed to kill or die for the jihadist cause.
LaRose, 46, has pleaded guilty to plotting to kill a Swedish artist who had offended Muslims, and faces a possible life sentence. Khalid's defense lawyer, Jeffrey M. Lindy, believes she helped the FBI build its case against the teenager.
"I absolutely think she rolled over in a heartbeat (against him)," Lindy said after the arraignment.
Khalid faces a 15-year prison term and deportation to his native Pakistan if convicted.
Lindy questioned the government's interpretation of Khalid's posts.
"I think they assume a much more nefarious and sinister connotation than what's really there," he said Monday.
U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams declined to comment after the brief hearing. A judge set a Dec. 13 trial date, but that is almost certain to be continued given the complexity of the case.
Khalid is charged in the indictment along with an Algerian man, 46-year-old Ali Charaf Damache, who remains jailed in Ireland.