NEW YORK — Bernhard H. Goetz, who shot four teen-agers on a subway train last December, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to illegal weapons possession charges before a judge who lowered his $50,000 bail to $5,000.
The plea was entered by Goetz's lawyer, Joseph Kelner, who said, "The defendant pleads not guilty," in response to the court clerk's question.
The hearing took a bit more than 15 minutes, during which the defendant said only one word--"Yes"--when the clerk asked whether he was in fact Bernhard Hugo Goetz.
Outside the courthouse more than 100 protesters carried signs denouncing Goetz and chanted slogans that could be heard inside, such as "Bernhard Goetz, you can't hide; we charge you with genocide," and "We want justice."
Goetz, 37, a self-employed electronics calibrator, is charged with one count of felony weapons possession for the gun he used to shoot the four youths, and two counts of misdemeanor weapons possession because police allegedly found two handguns in his apartment.
The grand jury refused to indict him on the four counts of attempted murder requested by the Manhattan district attorney.
Judge Stephen Crane said the reduction of the charges merited a reduction of bail. He noted the "stark contrast" between the original charges of attempted murder filed by police and the charges the grand jury returned.
He set the next court date for Feb. 27.
One group participating in the demonstration outside, the All-Peoples Congress, said it wanted to draw attention to the "odious and dangerous fact that the media, politicians and cops have made Goetz into a hero by playing on people's fears and appealing to racism."
Goetz is white, and the four youths he shot are black.