California man pleads not guilty to bomb charge

June 16, 2014 - 4:04 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California man arrested after an FBI manhunt pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he possessed an illegal destructive device and a handgun with serial numbers removed.

In addition, suspect Ryan Chamberlain was found to be a flight risk and a danger to the public, and a judge refused a defense request to release him from jail to a hospital for mental health treatment pending trial.

In arguing against the release, prosecutor Phil Kearney said investigators had seized a handful of castor beans in Chamberlain's apartment in San Francisco in addition to the toxins abrin and pure nicotine that were previously disclosed.

Kearney said the toxin ricin can be extracted from castor beans.

Chamberlain's attorney Jody Linker argued that castor beans are not dangerous and that her client isn't charged with possessing toxins.

She also said the seized handgun — a .22 caliber Derringer — was more of a novelty item than a real weapon. She also said more investigation into the nature of the alleged destructive device is needed.

Chamberlain, 42, was arrested June 2 after a three-day manhunt that authorities said was prompted by the discovery of bomb-making materials in his apartment.

Kearney told U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins that the device discovered was fully functional and ready to detonate by remote control. The device was found in a shoulder bag and destroyed by FBI technicians because it posed a danger, the prosecutor said.

Court records indicate the device was a jar filled with ball bearings and about four ounces of a green explosive powder containing potassium sulfate and other chemicals.

"This does not appear to be a device intended for suicide," Kearney argued.

Chamberlain apparently came to the attention of the FBI as it investigated and monitored an online marketplace where people allegedly bought and sold guns, bombs, drugs, chemicals and counterfeit goods.

Court documents say a customer of the site who was planning to commit suicide turned himself into police after buying abrin and cyanide and implicating Chamberlain. The records do not name the customer.

Chamberlain is due back in court Thursday after a psychiatric exam involving his possible pretrial release to a mental health facility.