Biotoxin Charge Added in SF Bomb Case

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Ryan Kelly Chamberlain, a publicist who worked on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mayoral campaign, and who was arrested this year after a three-day FBI manhunt, was arraigned Monday on an additional charge of possessing a biological toxin.
     Federal agents said Monday that they have abandoned efforts to reconstruct an explosive device found at Chamberlain’s San Francisco apartment.
     Chamberlain was arraigned Monday on the superseding indictment before U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero.
     According to the superseding indictment, in a search of Chamberlain’s Polk Street apartment, FBI agents seized a poison called abrin, found in rosemary pea seeds, as well as plastic vials and flashlights that he allegedly used to conceal it.
     Among other 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.
     Chamberlain pleaded not guilty on Monday. He already has been charged with, and has pleaded not guilty to, possessing a destructive device and a handgun with no serial number.
     Prosecutors believe Chamberlain was planning to detonate a bomb, and had earlier told U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria that the FBI intended to replicate the device using the same kind of materials found in Chamberlain’s home.
     But on Monday, federal prosecutor Philip Kearney said the explosive was too dangerous to replicate.
     “Assembling that much explosive material is just too dangerous to assemble in one place, so they’re not going to do full-scale testing,” Kearney told Chhabria. He said agents will still try to rebuild the circuit and detonator they believe Chamberlain was planning to use.
     Chhabria questioned the relevance of the experiment.
     “I’m not asking you to disclose the prosecution’s strategy,” Chhabria said. “I understand you were going to do a demo of what the bomb was capable of doing.”
     Kearny said reconstruction of the circuit and detonator will give prosecutors an idea of whether the bomb would work.
     “They have exploded small quantities of the explosive material before,” he said. “They know the explosive material when ignited will explode.”
     Kearney said the prosecution will finish up discovery in two weeks, and Chamberlain will appear in court again on Oct. 14. On Monday, he stood silently next to his attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jodi Linker, who patted him on the shoulder several times before Chamberlain was led away by a U.S. marshal.

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