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“The Bishop” bomber apologizes in federal court before sentencing

John Tomkins

John Tomkins

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:23AM



Pipe bomber John “The Bishop” Tomkins sure picked quite a day for his sentencing hearing.

While the nation’s eyes were glued on the ongoing hunt for the second alleged Boston Marathon bomber, Tomkins spent Friday morning in Chicago’s federal court, pleading for mercy for his role in a largely forgotten 2007 bombing campaign.

“Let me start by saying how incredibly sorry I am,” a desperate Tomkins told Judge Robert M. Dow during a rambling speech in which he made a passing reference to the Boston attack. “There are no words to describe the shame and disappointment I feel in myself.”

Tomkins admitted he’d mailed two pipe bombs — both of which went through the Rolling Meadows post office but did not detonate — to investment firms in Kansas City and Denver as part of an extortion campaign designed to manipulate the stock market.

But the Dubuque, Iowa, native repeated his insistence that the bombs would never have exploded because he’d deliberately left a crucial wire unconnected.

He said he’d started the extortion campaign after he had a “mental breakdown” brought on by the suicide of his nephew and the murder of a friend, and that he was motivated by anger at wrongdoing on Wall Street, not personal greed.

As his wife looked on from a courtroom bench, Tomkins then listed a litany of grievances with the legal system and indulged in a lengthy explanation of how therapy provided to him behind bars had given him personal insight, breaking down in tears as he apologized to his two children for “failing as a father.”

But federal prosecutor Patrick Pope said the bombs could easily have taken down a plane while in the postal system, adding that 17 victims who received extortion letters from Tomkins were “terrorized.”

He urged a sentence of 42 to 45 years — 12 to 15 more than the mandatory minimum of 30 years that Tomkins called “unfair.”

If Tomkins feared the judge would be caught up in the cauldron of emotions swirling in the immediate aftermath of the Boston bombs, he needn’t have worried; Dow said he wouldn’t issue a sentence until after he’s heard from a probation officer on May 21.



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