By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — The final verdict was delayed again last week nearly two years after a man placed several bombs in the city and made phone threats to a school. Sentencing for John Robert Kennedy was delayed until April 11, by which time District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara is also expected to rule on a defense request for a new trial.
Kennedy was initially indicted by a grand jury in July 2011 on six federal weapons charges related to a series of allegations made in April. Kennedy was accused of planting bombs in the parking lot of ACO Hardware on Van Horn Road and at Trenton High School.
Prior to the start of the November 2012 trial, Kennedy pleaded guilty two two counts: Possession of explosive materials and felon in possession of ammunition. In early December a jury took less than four hours to convict Kennedy on three additional charges, each punishable by up to 10 years in prison: Possession of an unregistered firearm; manufacture of a firearm; and felon in possession of a firearm. Kennedy’s criminal history in Michigan and Indiana includes five prior felony convictions dating back to 1991.
U.S. District Court information officer Rod Hansen said that the scheduled sentencing Tuesday was delayed, and a motion remains pending on a request for a new trial submitted by defense counsel Brandy Y. Robinson. The request continued arguments made on Kennedy’s behalf during the trial that challenged the definition of explosive or destructive devices. Robinson argued that the materials identified as belonging to Kennedy, while smoke-emitting and meeting some criteria, did not fit the legal definition of a destructive device.
The motion for a new trial claims that the jury was not adequately instructed as to the language used in legal definitions regarding explosive devices.
During the trial defense attorneys acknowledged Kennedy’s long-standing fascination with explosives and firearms, and did not challenge key elements of the prosecution.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)