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Armadillo bomber case has happy ending

By Walter Geiger Back in May, 2012 when Seth Roberts and his roommate, Wesley Peters, were arrested for having two shrapnel-packed pipe bombs at their Lamar County Line Road home, he was labeled ‘˜Bubba bomber’ and ‘˜homegrown terrorist’. Last week, in Lamar superior court, he got a new lease on a new life he has already started building. The saga started when DNR ranger Keith Page found pipe bomb remnants on Roberts’ property while investigating reports of a deer shot out of season. Page shared his findings with GBI bomb technicians who visited the home. Roberts was up front about building explosives but did not want his home searched. A warrant was obtained and two galvanized pipe bombs were found. One was packed with small nails and tacks. The other with finishing nails. The casings were ordained with the names ‘˜Nails O’Hoy’ and ‘˜Tacks O’Hoy’. Each also carried a crude skull and crossbones. Officers also found a pound of marijuana in a safe in the home. Roberts maintained he used the devices to blow up armadillos. He stuck by that story even when the case went federal for a time. District attorney Richard Milam said federal investigators ‘took the case, kept it for a long time and then gave it back.’ Roberts and Peters were not arraigned here until late last year. Milam had offered Roberts a plea deal of three years in prison and seven years on probation. Roberts rejected that offer, choosing a bench trial before Judge Tommy Wilson on four counts of unlawful handling of an explosive device and betting his freedom in the process. He sought straight probation and first offender status. GBI bomb technician Bill Bodery testified that, though the bombs were designed to maim something, they had a fuse time of only 26 seconds. ‘This is not something he could have gone into, say, the Macon Mall with it in a backpack and had time to get out himself,’ Bodery said. Under cross examination by defense attorney Eric Hearn, Bodery said he had no evidence the devices were to be used for any purpose other than killing armadillos. Prompted by a question from the judge, Bodery said agents, oddly, did not take computers or phones from the home to determine if there were any evidence of bomb plots on them. Hearn said someone went to the feds about the case. ’They decided to take a look. He was indicted in federal court and the local charges were dropped. No one told us that. Seth was visiting his girlfriend in South Carolina, made an improper turn at, of all places, a doughnut shop and was swarmed by cops. They ran his license and found a federal bench warrant. He had to post a $1000 federal bond,’ Hearn added. For one and a half years, Roberts was on pre-trial release and watched by a federal probation officer and had no problems, Hearn said. He said evidentiary problems with the case prompted the feds to drop it and that is how it got kicked back to Lamar County. ‘I first met Seth in the jail. I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. Now he has grown up and is a pleasure to have in my office and my home,’ Hearn said. Roberts got a good job with Hess in the North Dakota oil fields. He started his own business there where he works in his spare time. When the new indictment came down, he set aside time from work to come down and turn himself in. ‘He was released on bond and went back to his job. He has caused no problems of any kind to anyone. He is trying to make something of his life,’ Hearn told the judge. ’When I was a kid, we made Molotov cocktails. My Dad reloaded cartridges. I had access to black powder. We made pipe bombs. I wasn’t a homegrown terrorist. I did it for fun. It was fun,’ Hearn added. There was some discussion about the Boston Marathon bombing which occurred after Roberts’ arrest and a similar ‘˜Bubba bomber’ arrest in north Georgia around the same time. ’Don’t take out what other people have done on Seth, Hearn urged Judge Wilson. He then said Roberts would answer any question the judge had. Milam suggested he ask about the marijuana in the home. Roberts said he had no idea the pot was there. ’Ain’t nobody that damn stupid,’ the Judge countered, calling for a break. During that break he had Roberts drug tested. Roberts was clean. Once the results were in, Judge Wilson was ready to pass sentence. ’I think you were lying about the marijuana but you passed the drug test so at least you didn’t come up here today on it. I try to pass judgement using common sense. Some people would argue with my common sense,’ Judge Wilson said. He noted that he had heard of his friends making and exploding pipe bombs and blowing up beaver dams back in the day. ’We’re living in a different world today. Back in the 70’s, you never would have been charged,’ the judge added. He then gave Roberts 10 years probation with no prison time. He fined him $3000 plus surcharges, banished him from the circuit for one year and imposed a search and specimen clause under which Roberts can be searched and drug tested at anytime without warning. He did grant Roberts first offender status which means his record can be cleared if he stays out of trouble for the duration of his probation. ’If you screw up, I will send you to prison. You got your one break in life. Don’t mess it up,’ Judge Wilson admonished. Roberts left the courthouse a free man to return to North Dakota. The charges against Peters are still pending, Milam reported.

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