It remains to be seen whether authorities will bring federal charges against an Altoona college student accused of possessing a weapon of mass destruction. According to police, the 19-year-old Russian national was under investigation for allegedly growing marijuana, but when officers entered the young man's residence, they found what they believed to be a bomb and other materials used to make explosives.
Authorities claim the teen was in possession of a suitcase containing bomb-making substances and a homemade bomb. The young man reportedly told investigators that he planned to use two devices found in the residence to "blow things up," but he later indicated that his intention was only to detonate the devices in a field.
In addition to the charge of possessing a weapon of mass destruction, the teenager is charged with risking catastrophe and a number of drug-related crimes. A criminal complaint says that police seized five small marijuana plants and a grow light found in the residence.
The accused teen's apartment-mate spoke with a local news outlet, saying that the teen had recently exploded three small bombs that left small holes in the ground near the apartment. At the time of a report, the teen remained incarcerated in Blair County with bail set at $500,000.
Simply possessing unregistered explosive devices can lead to charges of arson and other related crimes, such as possession of weapons of mass destruction. Authorities prosecute these charges aggressively. If investigators believe that explosive materials were purchased and transported across state lines, then the transporter and the owner could face federal charges.
However, not everyone who is accused of such a crime is guilty. Prosecutors will nonetheless pursue a conviction, even if the facts of the case don't warrant that outcome. The best thing a defendant can do in such a case is to speak with a defense attorney with experience in handling federal and state charges related to explosives and arson.
Source: 4 ABC WTAE, "Russian teen faces homemade bomb charges," Steve Almasy, Jan. 26, 2014