Longmont Times-Call : Bomb-making suspect pleads not guilty

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bomb-making suspect pleads not guilty

By Pierrette J. Shields | Longmont Times-Call | December 19, 2007

BOULDER — A Longmont man charged with 10 counts of possessing explosives pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment hearing Tuesday morning in Boulder District court.

Attorneys scheduled an April 2008 jury trial for Ronald Swerlein, a retired engineer who told police his chemical experiments in the garage of his home were nerdy, but not nefarious.

He told police he was trying to develop a rocket fuel and did not intend to use any explosive chemicals for any other reason, according to police reports in the case. He is free on a $50,000 bond.

A motions hearing is scheduled in March.

Prosecutor Anne Pignatiello said that she has been negotiating with Swerlein’s attorney Paul McCormick, but that her office did not want the case to stall.

“Paul and I have talked, and we are obviously continuing to talk,” she said. “I think we’re at the point to set it for trial.”

McCormick would not say whether Swerlein is open to accepting a plea bargain in the case.

“I have no comment,” he said.

Police in June followed neighborhood tips and obtained warrants to Swerlein’s home at 2404 Sunset St. and seized a cache of more than 400 chemicals, many of which were highly explosive. Neighbors complained about hearing explosions coming from the property.

Police Sgt. Tim Lewis said at the time that heightened community sensitivities caused by the discovery of small homemade explosives in the Longmont Clinic’s parking lot highlighted the explosions at the Swerlein home, leading officers to investigate. Police are still seeking a suspect in the Longmont Clinic case.

Police met with Swerlein’s neighbors after the raid to explain the situation and encourage them to organize through the city’s neighborhood group program to better communicate with one another when concerns surface.

Swerlein’s attorney asked for a gag order, but a Boulder District judge rejected the motion.