A 41-year-old Oklee, Minn., man who allegedly kept a notebook outlining plans for violently overthrowing the government was convicted Friday of illegally possessing a cache of homemade pipe bombs discovered on a family hunting property last year.
Jurors in Fergus Falls, Minn., found Eric James Reinbold guilty after about an hour of deliberation Friday. Though prosecutors previously sought to introduce evidence of extreme anti-government writings, Reinbold faced a single charge of possessing an unregistered destructive device.
Last fall, relatives reported finding a tote bag that contained about a half-dozen pipe bombs, other material for homemade explosives and a receipt from a website that sells fuses that was in Reinbold’s name. Federal prosecutors charged Reinbold in January, months after he was arrested in Kansas with cash, camping gear and a passport days after authorities swept his rural northern Minnesota home.
“Given the dangerousness of the devices and the courage of the concerned citizens who discovered them and contacted law enforcement, we are pleased with today’s verdict,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Allyn said in a statement Friday.
Though no fingerprints or DNA were found on the devices stashed in the tote bag, law enforcement found matching materials on Reinbold’s property and literature that included recipes for making clandestine bombs. Reinbold had denied owning or knowing about the bombs since his October 2017 arrest.
“We are extremely disappointed in the verdict. We vow to appeal and are going to prepare for sentencing,” said Bruce Rivers, an attorney for Reinbold, shortly after Friday’s verdict. “There was no DNA. There was zero DNA [found on the devices].”
Reinbold will be sentenced Nov. 16.
Jurors were not shown Reinbold’s alleged writings about sparking a “2nd American Revolution” and wiping out the IRS and “feminism.” Before trial began Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim ruled that only sections “directly related” to making or using bombs that were written in a book found in Reinbold’s home could be used as evidence at trial.
The book, called “How one (1) person Can make a difference,” included a subtitle describing it as the “Instruction Booklet at the HCU (homemade commando university).” Authorities found it, and a copy of the “Anarchist Cookbook,” during a search of Reinbold’s home last year.
Reinbold’s signature appears on one of the first pages of the book, which includes a list of “candidates for martyrdom” that range from “depressed people” to the terminally ill and “men with severe erectile dysfunction.”
“At some point in your life you will fall into one of these (12) categories,” Reinbold wrote in the book. “When you do fall into one of these categories get yourself (and maybe even a friend or two) ready to go Hulk.”
The notebook also included entire pages devoted to making explosives and a diagram for creating “detonators fashioned out of Christmas tree lights.” The bag of pipe bombs that Reinbold’s relatives found also included jugs of gunpowder, “suction-cup style nerf bullets with fishing wire and hooks,” a kitchen timer, toggle switches and a “cut Christmas tree light.” Additional nerf bullets and “pyrotechnic fuses” found on Reinbold’s property were consistent with items found in the bag, prosecutors say.
Reinbold previously engaged in a standoff with law enforcement officers after a 2015 domestic dispute and was later charged with threatening a mail carrier who reported the incident. The carrier told authorities that Reinbold once blocked his path with an all-terrain vehicle and once lay down in a ditch near his mailbox while wearing camouflage as the carrier approached.
It is unclear when Reinbold wrote the notebook that was seized. In it, he described going “commando” on Washington, D.C., and using video games and camping off the grid to prepare for “your special day.” Federal law enforcement, “Women’s Rights Headquarters” and “teacher conventions” were listed among potential “targets.” A list titled “How to start the armed rebellion” included a vow “to shoot it out if intruded on by the state — DWI’s, seat belt, etc.”
Relatives and longtime friends of Reinbold expressed dismay this week with the image painted of a man nicknamed “Rainbow” who once appeared as a write-in candidate for lieutenant governor in Minnesota’s 2002 election, netting two votes. His running mate, Lealand Vettleson, said Reinbold joined the ticket because “he thought it would be a hilariously funny thing to do.”
Vettleson said Reinbold was close with Vettleson’s brother, with whom he made homemade rifle rounds to save money and “beer can launchers” for fun. But Vettleson said he was unaware of a more sophisticated explosives-making streak in Reinbold.
In a statement Friday, Kirk Howard, assistant special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) St. Paul office, said that pipe bombs are “illegal improvised explosive devices, bottom line,” regardless of intent of use.
“We’re grateful that somebody took the initiative to report this, and we encourage anyone who comes into contact with dangerous, illegal improvised explosive devices to reach out to us,” Howard said. “It could save people from getting hurt or killed.”