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Continued: Arrests, charges and threats of explosives

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 3, 2008 - 11:18 PM

A flurry of charges were filed Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court against some of the 284 people arrested on the first day of the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

County Attorney Susan Gaertner said her office was presented with 71 potential felony cases. Of those, 16 adults and five juveniles have been charged. Six cases are pending further investigation.

City Attorney John Choi said his office filed gross-misdemeanor charges ranging from riot to obstruction of legal process against 47 people Wednesday. More than 100 people were cited for misdemeanors, authorities said.

Prosecutors declined to bring felony charges in 44 cases. Of those, 16 were referred to the St. Paul city attorney's office for consideration of non-felony charges, one person was released pending further investigation and 27 cases were dismissed outright, Gaertner said.

The adults face charges including obstruction of legal process, criminal damage to property and riot. The juveniles, ages 15 to 17, are charged with riot, unlawful assembly and other felony and non-felony charges.

Eight of the felony charges filed Wednesday were against people identified in criminal complaints as members of the RNC Welcoming Committee. Each was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit riot in the second-degree in furtherance of terrorism.

The nearly identical 15-page complaints allege that the defendants plotted to "shut down and disrupt the Republican National Convention." Seven of the eight are being held in lieu of $75,000 bail. A warrant has been issued for the eighth.

In addition to the Monday arrests, authorities have said that 11 were arrested Tuesday and eight Wednesday. A spokeswoman for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that almost 80 of those arrested Monday were released later that day. Many more were released Tuesday and Wednesday.

Chief District Judge Kathleen Gearin said that courtrooms at the Law Enforcement Center were "busy, busy, busy" Wednesday.

Judges handled between 100 and 150 arraignments and first appearances related to RNC defendants during day and evening sessions.

Federal charges filed

Meanwhile, a 23-year-old Michigan man has been charged with a federal crime after he allegedly plotted to set off a homemade bomb in the tunnels near the Xcel Energy Center.

Matthew B. DePalma of Flint, Mich., allegedly wanted to cause a power outage, which he hoped would lead officials to call off the convention, according to a news release Wednesday from the U.S. attorney's office. He was charged in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis with illegally possessing Molotov cocktails.

A Molotov cocktail is a generic name for a variety of homemade bombs that can be lobbed at a target. In its simplest form, it is a glass bottle filled with a flammable liquid with a rag wick.

DePalma had been under surveillance by the FBI for more than a month, the news release said. He spent about 90 minutes at the Hennepin County Library on Aug. 18 researching recipes for homemade bombs and bought supplies to make Molotov cocktails on Aug. 21 and 22, the release said.

The news release continued that, according to an FBI affidavit, DePalma said that if he could bomb the Xcel Center on Sept. 1, "they might call off the convention."

He also said that he would like to bomb the Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 4 so that the convention would "end with a bang," according to the release.

The release said authorities recorded conversations DePalma had with an unidentified individual Aug. 20 in which he described another plan to use napalm-filled Molotov cocktails against police officers.

On Aug. 22, DePalma allegedly made two jugs of a napalm-like substance for use in the Molotov cocktails. He was seen traveling to Rosemount to allegedly assemble and test the Molotov cocktails. On Aug. 25, the release said, he went to a remote location in Roseville, allegedly to experiment with a chemical bomb. Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551

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