A man accused of waging a violent three-state crime spree that ended when he crashed near the George Washington Bridge made his first court appearance Tuesday.
Luis Figueroa, 33, appeared in federal court in Newark, but did not enter a plea. He remains held without bail.
Limping and using a cane, the result of injuries suffered in the crash that preceded his arrest, he winked at family members in the gallery and said, "Ma, I love you," as he was led out.
Figueroa faces six counts including kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse and brandishing a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. Those three carry maximum life sentences upon conviction. He also is charged with assaulting a United States employee, damaging a property by use of fire and another weapons charge.
"This was one of the more serious, vicious and violent crime sprees seen in this district in a very long time," Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Jamari Buxton told the judge in arguing for Figueroa to remain held without bail. "The defendant is about as violent and dangerous as it gets."
Figueroa's niece, Eloiza Figueroa, defended him outside the courthouse.
"I know my uncle, I know who he is," she said. "I know he didn't do it. He's not a criminal, he's not an animal like people are saying."
According to authorities, Figueroa abducted a woman in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, on June 6 after striking her and a relative in the head with a shotgun. He then allegedly drove to Kittatinny Point Visitor Center in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and sexually assaulted her. While he was disposing of his shotgun in a wooded area, authorities said, the victim was able to drive away. She was transported to a hospital and treated for her injuries.
After the victim drove away, Figueroa is accused of attacking a national park employee, ramming the employee's head into a door and stealing the worker's minivan.
Authorities said he drove the minivan to Paterson, New Jersey, where he torched a used-car dealership that was operated by a person who leased a property to Figueroa. Figueroa was given notice to evict the property several days before his alleged crime spree.
After fleeing the scene, Figueroa was seen by police officers as he drove on the George Washington Bridge. He allegedly led the officers on a high-speed chase on the bridge, hit two police vehicles and crashed into a wall.
Figueroa attempted to flee but was taken into custody by officers, according to authorities.