Man convicted in Home Depot bomb plot
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It took a federal jury about two hours to convict a Deer Park man of trying to extort $2 million from his former employer and using a pipe bomb to advance his scheme.
Daniel Sheehan, 50, a part-time handyman at Home Depot, shook his head slightly as the jury foreman announced the verdict in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
"I can't believe it," Sheehan told his attorney, Leonard Lato, after Judge Denis R. Hurley dismissed the jurors.
Sheehan's wife, with whom he has a 10-year-old boy, and two other relatives who had been in the courtroom in the morning for summations were not there when the verdict was revealed.
Sheehan was charged with extortion, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison. But his conviction on a charge of using a destructive device during the commission of a felony calls for a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison.
He had admitted that he tried to extort $2 million from Home Depot, his former employer. However, federal prosecutor Lara Treinis Gatz had argued in her summation that Sheehan was also guilty of using a destructive device -- a capped steel pipe stuffed with explosive powder -- to advance his extortion scheme last fall.
Gatz said the prosecution evidence presented in Sheehan's one-week trial was "overwhelming," including his confession to the FBI and the fact that he had built and detonated a pipe bomb in a garage before planting the one inside Home Depot's store in Huntington.
Sheehan "was hard-pressed to say he had a second one that didn't work," Gatz said.
Lato, who throughout the trial argued that the device Sheehan built and planted inside Home Depot was designed not to go off, conceded on Monday that it was "close" to a pipe bomb.
"Even if a part was left out, it was so close to completion," he said.
At trial, Lato of Hauppauge, had told jurors the device lacked a fusing system. The wires were not connected to the battery, therefore, he said, an explosion could not be triggered. And, Lato said, authorities did not find an igniter.
He said his client designed the device to demonstrate to Home Depot officials that he was capable of making a bomb, but Lato said Sheehan did not actually build a pipe bomb. No one was ever in danger, he said.
Police officials said the device exploded when bomb technicians used a robot to defuse it on Oct. 15, 2012, after the store evacuated employees and customers.
"Does it sound like a prototype or does it sound like the real thing?" Gatz asked jurors.
In an anonymous letter to the Home Depot in October, Sheehan threatened to blow up three of the chain's Long Island stores on Black Friday if he wasn't paid.
Prosecutors said Sheehan planned his crime in May 2012 when he bought a prepaid cellphone at a 7-Eleven thinking that it couldn't be traced to him. He used it to call the store. Later, prosecutors said he purchased shotgun shells at a Sports Authority store.
The device Sheehan planted inside the Home Depot's Huntington store was a "destructive device," Gatz said, because it could have exploded if an unsuspecting person tried to unscrew the end caps.
Lato, however, argued that was not possible because it was not rigged to detonate. Police caused the device to explode, Lato said, because bomb technicians shot projectiles at the caps.