Prosecutors Prepare New Charge in SF Bomb Case
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Ryan Chamberlain, the publicist accused of having bomb-making materials in his San Francisco apartment, may soon face a felony lethal toxin charge, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Chamberlain has already been charged with, and has pleaded not guilty to, possessing a destructive device and a handgun with no serial number. He remains in custody, as U.S. District Judge Nathanael Cousins has refused to let him post bail.
Records of lethal poisons Chamberlain sought on black-market websites prompted FBI officials to raid Chamberlain's apartment after several weeks of surveillance. Among the items uncovered during the May 31 search were a powdery green substance, a model rocket motor, ball bearings and 20 to 40 castor beans, which can be used to make deadly ricin poison.
At a hearing Monday, federal prosecutor Philip Kearney said the government expects a superseding indictment to be ready in three to four weeks.
Chamberlain's public defender Jodi Linker said the government cannot prove that the jar of "shrapnel" found in the apartment was actually material for a bomb. "I don't think they can prove it, but I'd like to know what they're at least claiming so we can mount a defense," Linker said. "They say they have all this evidence. Let's see it."
U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria denied without prejudice Linker's motion for a detailed, formal written statement of charges against Chamberlain, leaving the door open for Linker to bring it up again.
Chhabria said he was interested in the FBI's intention to re-create Chamberlain's alleged bomb, which the government destroyed. "The FBI is trying to build a parallel device using the same materials in this jar, and test that device," Kearney said.
Linker scoffed. "I'm curious as to how they're going to re-create this so-called bomb," she said. "I don't understand how this device can be re-created when we don't know what it's being re-created with."
Linker also noted she still hasn't gotten all the evidence she requested about the device. "Is this a poof or is this a boom?" she asked. "I haven't gotten an answer."
Chhabria said he is concerned about which way the government will go on the destructive-device charge. "One of the mysteries for me is which way the statute was violated," Chhabria said. "There had better be good and clean evidence about whether the device found in Mr. Chamberlain's apartment was assembled so we can be confident this recreation is an accurate one."
The judge added: "The fact of the device being destroyed and what the government has produced thus far goes to whether it can prove this case. Perhaps the government is going to have a problem proving its case."