Alleged 'bishop' bomber on trial

May 2, 2012 2:59:50 PM PDT
John Tomkins, charged with mailing letter bombs in 2005, is acting as his own attorney at his trial.

Tomkins, accused of being the "bishop" bomber, began presenting his case in court Wednesday.

The jury was dismissed at about 2:30 p.m. after Tomkins made his opening statement and called three character witnesses, two of them his brothers.

Tomkins told jury members he would ask them to find him guilty of mailing threatening letters to investment houses but not guilty of what he says he didn't do, which is mailing pipe bombs that were ready to explode

In a short sleeve shirt and clip-on tie, the 47-year-old former machinist struggled with the intricacies of criminal procedure in a federal court. But judge Robert Dow Jr. and U.S. Attorney Patrick Pope seemed to help him along, mindful that even while representing oneself, a defendant has rights and failure to respect them is grounds for an appeal.

"You want to make sure the record is clear, and if your opponent is not making too much sense, you have to make the remake the argument for him, and then argue against that position," said John Muldoon, a former prosecutor not involved in the case.

Tomkins faces 13 criminal counts for mailing threatening letters and pipe bombs to investment houses and individual advisors. Court has heard how their chilling nature caused recipients to fear for their lives, as well as those of their friends, family and co-workers.

Authorities traced many of those mailings, and purchases of bomb-making materials he allegedly made, to Chicago-area post offices and businesses. Tomkins was arrested in 2007

"You also do not want to come off a bully in front of the jury," said Muldoon. "There's still that sympathy factor that you got to be careful of."

The government finished two days of presenting evidence it says shows Tomkins wanted investment houses to raise the price of stock he owned in two technology firms -- 3Com and Navarre -- to specific levels by certain dates, with 3Com to $6.66 per share by May 1, 2006.

Tomkins may take the stand Thursday in his own defense, depending on a ruling the judge will make on the relevance of the fact that the pipe bombs were not set to go off. Tomkins says he deliberately left one wire unconnected.

Tomkins' brothers testified Wednesday that he was a peaceful person who enjoyed a good childhood with them.

ABC7 asked the brothers for an interview outside of court and they declined. So did the U.S. Attorneys, who as a rule do not comment on cases until they are completed.

Judge Dow's court resumes Thursday at 9:45 a.m.