PLANO, Texas (AP) — A man charged with trying to blow up a North Texas natural gas pipeline in 2012 pleaded guilty late Monday to two of the charges he faced at trial.
Anson Chi, 35, entered the plea after the end of a full day of jury selection for the federal court trial in Plano, Texas. The Dallas Morning News reported (http://bit.ly/TxY6Hn ) Chi pleaded guilty to possessing a destructive device that was not registered as required by law. Chi also pleaded guilty to a charge of using that explosive device maliciously.
"Our main objective was to get a conviction," said prosecutor Andrew Stover. "These are crimes of violence. It's very dangerous what happened."
Chi was arrested in 2012 in Plano, northeast of Dallas, near a small explosion by a natural-gas pipeline. The blast caused minimal damage but critically injured Chi.
Chi's sentence is left to the discretion of U.S. District Judge Richard Schell, but he retains the right to argue sentencing-related issues and, in some cases, to appeal, said Garland Cardwell, Chi's court-appointed standby counsel. Chi was serving as his own attorney but had Cardwell to consult on legal issues.
"This offer was something he didn't have before," Cardwell said. "This gives him more opportunity to have a say in his sentence."
No date has been set for his sentencing.
Chi corresponded with imprisoned Unabomber Ted Kaczynski until Kaczynski told him to stop writing, according to letters reviewed by The News. Kaczynski is serving life in prison for killing three people and injuring 23 during a nationwide bombing spree between 1978 and 1995.
Chi contacted Kaczynski for feedback on a website he was creating and told Kaczynski that he admired him. Schell, the trial judge, had excluded the letters from being used as evidence at Chi's trial.
"You're a true inspiration to me and I vow not to let the sacrifices that you've made go to waste," Chi said in one of the letters, dated July 26, 2011.
The University of Michigan has a public collection of many letters received by Kaczynski, a Michigan alumnus. In one letter, Chi tells Kaczynski that he wants to create a website for others who share their anti-technology beliefs.
"What the hell do you think I've been trying to do for the last fifteen years!!!!?" Kaczynski wrote back in a letter dated Oct. 5, 2011.
The two exchanged designs for a website, but their relationship eventually soured. Kaczynski called Chi irrational and told him to see a psychiatrist.
"Anyone who does anything as stupid as sending material of that kind to an inmate of a high-security prison has to be mentally ill," Kaczynski said in a May 2012 letter. "I will have nothing further to do with you under any circumstances whatever."
After initially saying he would plead guilty, Chi withdrew his plea and fired his lawyers. He has filed several handwritten motions from jail, where he has been awaiting trial. Jury selection began Monday.
Schell said in an order Friday that the letters' value as evidence was outweighed by the risk that they would mislead the jury or cause other problems.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com