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'Bishop bomber' convicted of sending dud pipe bombs

May 4, 2012 2:50:15 PM PDT
The Iowa man who sent threatening letters and packages to financial firms and individuals has been found guilty on all counts in federal court.

The verdict came down late Friday morning in the trial of the man known as the "bishop bomber."

John Tomkins, 47, of Dubuque, was found guilty by a jury of his peers on all nine extortion counts, as well as three counts related to the bombs, charges stemming from his bizarre actions that began seven years ago. Federal attorneys and the top U.S. postal inspector for the Midwest said they prevented Tomkins from eventually killing someone.

"We are satisfied with the jury's swift verdict in this case," said U.S. Attorney Patrick C. Pope. "It is a reflection of the overwhelming evidence that was presented in the case and more importantly it is a testament to the hard work done by the U.S. postal inspectors in this case, the ATF agents the FBI agents and from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The jury returned its verdict to Judge Robert Dow junior just two hours after beginning deliberations Friday morning.

Tomkins had defended himself in a trial which came 5 years after his arrest. He took the stand Thursday and pleaded guilty to all the charges except one -- building, possessing and delivering a destructive device, a pipe bomb, to force financial firms to buy stock in two technology firms whose shares he owned ? 3COM and Navarre.

"The conduct here is very serious threats and mailing destructive devices to multiple people around the country," said Pope.

Postal inspectors recovered the threatening letters, often signed "the Bishop" and parcels and two unmailed bombs in Tomkins' Dubuque, Iowa, storage locker. There they also recovered receipts for purchases of bullets and other bomb components. Tomkins maintained he built duds on purpose, and none did detonate. But authorities said that was just dumb luck. And those on the receiving end of Tomkins' wrath testified they were terrorized

"His behavior become increasingly more agitated he first started sending letters, then it escalates to sending mail bombs, obviously who knows what could have happened next," said Tom Brady, Inspector in Charge, Chicago division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Tomkins will be sentenced August 6. He's facing a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison or up to 200 years. He is likely to appeal.


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