Trial begins in school, city bomb charges

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TRENTON — More than a year after a grand jury’s charges were confirmed, the trial of a man accused of placing bombs in the city and phoning a threat to the high school began in U.S. District Court.

Heading into the start of jury selection in Ann Arbor last week, John Robert Kennedy pleaded guilty on two of six charges and a trial will be held on four remaining felony counts.

Kennedy was charged in July 2011 with six weapons and explosives charges. Prosecutors said that Kennedy placed two bombs in Trenton, one in a high school parking lot and the other on Van Horn Road, and allegedly made a telephone bomb threat to Trenton High School on April 28.

U.S. District Court information officer Rod Hansen said that Kennedy pleaded guilty Tuesday to possession of explosive materials and felon in possession of ammunition before District Judge John Corbett O’Meara.

During the weeks leading up to the trial prosecutors and defense attorneys debated the admissibility of evidence to include a device found at Trenton High School and items found in Kennedy’s Indiana home.

On Nov. 9 O’Meara denied a request by defense counsel Penny Beardslee and Todd Shanker to exclude evidence and witness statements. U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade argued that further delay of a trial was not warranted and that the evidence she planned to introduce had been made available during discovery.

“Defense counsel has had ample opportunity to prepare for the consequences of the evidence if presented at trial,” McQuade wrote.

Although evidence of prior felony convictions were not expected to be introduced, McQuade noted that Kennedy stipulated to aspects of a criminal history that includes five felony convictions dating back to 1991.

Kennedy was arrested after investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Michigan State Police and Trenton Police Department traced a phone call that warned of a bomb placed in the high school was traced to a disposable cellular phone purchased in Woodhaven.

Investigators confirmed the purchase of the phone at a Walmart, identified the vehicle allegedly driven by Kennedy and tracked it to a Flat Rock mobile home.

The trial was expected to continue this week.

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