MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man authorities feared may have been plotting a sniper attack on a high school football game pleaded not guilty Monday to federal firearms charges.
Raphael Enrique Amoroso, 26, of Grants Pass, is scheduled to go on trial Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court on charges of having a gun on school grounds and being a marijuana user in possession of a firearm. Prosecutors are also seeking the forfeiture of two pistols, five rifles, a shotgun, and 2,400 rounds of ammunition found in the car and at the home he shares with his mother.
Amoroso appeared in court in a green jail jumpsuit. His parents were in the courtroom.
A magistrate judge last week ordered Amoroso held without bail as a danger to the community after the prosecution said he was convicted at 15 of shooting a pellet gun at a boat carrying tourists on the Rogue River and wrote a note on a classroom desk at 13 saying he wanted to kill teachers and students.
The self-employed landscaper and handyman was arrested last month on a drunken driving charge after he drove out of Grants Pass High School several hours after a football game. A loaded pistol, about 200 rounds of rifle ammunition, and a novel about a federal agent plotting a sniper attack on a football game were found in the car.
Amoroso was arrested again a week later, when police turned up more guns — mostly vintage military rifles — plus thousands of rounds of ammunition, a military helmet, sniper manuals and other books.
At the detention hearing last week, defense attorneys argued Amoroso had a First Amendment right to read any book and have any thoughts he wanted, the guns in his home were legal, and the message on the school desk was judged at the time to be a cry for help, at a time his parents were separating, and his father was being treated for cancer.
Drew Stobbe told The Associated Press he was pals with Amoroso during high school, and had a hard time believing he entertained serious thoughts about any kind of sniper attack.
"He has always been one of those guys to romanticize about things like that," said Stobbe, now serving on an Army tank crew in Texas. "He's not the kind of guy to do something like that."
Stobbe said the 1999 note written on a desk expressing a desire to kill teachers and students did not raise much attention at school, and he only heard about it because his father was a substitute teacher at the time.
Stobbe said if Amoroso was the kind of person to want to harm people, he would have shown that behavior when Stobbe failed to repay a debt of $200 for two years.
"From what I know of him, he is not a bad guy," Stobbe said. "He had reason to have a quarrel with me in the past and handled it pretty civilly, in my opinion."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.