Agron Abdullahu, 24, had asked U.S. Magistrate Joel Schneider to be released from custody into house arrest. But prosecutors successfully argued he was likely to flee and was a serious risk to the community's safety.
"I'm not really a bad guy," Abdullahu said. "If I could leave I would definitely go back to my old life. ... I would never do anything to harm this country."
Abdullahu, a legal U.S. resident, is charged with helping illegal immigrants obtain weapons, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
"He was an integral part of the plan to attack Fort Dix," Schneider said as he explained his decision.
Abdullahu was arrested May 7, the same day authorities rounded up five other men - Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Serdar Tatar, 23; Dritan "Anthony" or "Tony" Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; and Eljvir "Elvis" Duka, 23. In a court filing, the government described them as "a radical Islamic and jihadist group."
While the others face life in prison if they are convicted of conspiring to kill military personnel at Fort Dix, the maximum sentence for Abdullahu is 10 years.
The government says it has video of him with guns - and even teaching the others to shoot - taken in the Pocono Mountains in 2006 and 2007. Authorities said that while Abdullahu joined the others on trips to practice shooting weapons and told them about how to make bombs, he said he did not want to kill people.
Abdullahu's public defender, Lisa Evans Lewis, said the trips were vacations that involved shooting weapons - some of which were legally owned by Abdullahu.
When there was discussion of an attack, Lewis said, he spoke against it. "He made it clear he was not down with that program," she said.
Schneider, however, said Abdullahu made a mistake by continuing to associate with the others - and by letting them use his weapons. "It defies logic not to infer the firearms were going to be used in serious illegal activity," he said. Abdullahu lives in Buena Vista Township, between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. He is an ethnic Albanian who was born in the former Yugoslavia. At age 16, he went to Fort Dix with his family as refugees from Kosovo. Abdullahu's parents, sister and a former boss also testified about his work ethic, his kindness and his love for the United States. They said they needed him back because, although he is only 24, he was the main provider for the family, using money he made working 60- to 70-hour weeks in the bakery of a supermarket. He fixed the family's broken cars and even bought his 21-year-old sister a car, they said. Raymond Million, a former boss and friend who was willing to post the equity in his home as part of a bail package, also spoke on Abdullahu's behalf Thursday. "You don't find a man that has the character that he has," Million said.