Pittsburgh: A Russian-born university student has pleaded guilty to a charge of building bombs without a federal license in his off-campus apartment in Pennsylvania.
The deal between federal prosecutors in Johnstown and 18-year-old Vladislav Miftakhov came after months of negotiations with his federal public defender.
The defence did not immediately return messages yesterday for comment, but has said Miftakhov only meant to create noise with the explosives, not mayhem. Prosecutors say his intentions weren`t clear.
Miftakhov was a Penn State-Altoona student from San Carlos, California, when he was arrested Jan 24.
He has been jailed since local police acted on a landlord`s tip that Miftakhov was growing marijuana and police found bomb-making materials in his apartment. The materials included an unexploded device containing about a half-pound of volatile chemicals in the apartment.
Miftakhov was originally scheduled to enter the guilty plea Aug 19, but a judge last month rescheduled the change of plea hearing for yesterday. He is scheduled for sentencing Dec 11 before US District Judge Kim Gibson.
The charge of manufacturing an explosive device without a license carries up to 10 years in prison, a USD 250,000 fine and three years` probation. A federal prosecutor indicated there was a plea agreement, but its terms weren`t spelled out in the courtroom yesterday and the US Attorney`s office in Pittsburgh declined to comment on it.
Federal public defender Christopher Brown has argued that Miftakhov meant to detonate the bombs only to make noise. He won a federal magistrate`s order in February to release Miftakhov from jail pending trial, arguing that prosecutors were wrongly invoking the Boston Marathon bombing, allegedly by a Russian-born college student and his brother, in order to make Miftakhov`s case seem more serious than it really was.
But before Miftakhov could be released, Gibson reversed the lower judge`s order, citing concerns for public safety and Miftakhov`s lack of ties to the community.
Assistant US Attorney James Kitchen has argued Miftakhov`s intentions weren`t clear because, among other things, police found "anarchy" symbols in his apartment and a note saying, "If you find this, you will never find me," rolled up and stored inside a bullet casing.
Investigators contend Miftakhov ordered potassium perchlorate and magnesium online, then mixed the chemicals and put them into empty carbon dioxide cartridges to make the bombs.