River Forest man on trial for threatening letters to pols, oil execs
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter April 23, 2014 3:12PM
Ron Haddad is shown arriving at federal court in Chicago in 2010 during an earlier hearing in his case. On Monday a jury found him guilty of sending threatening letters to a slew of politicians and executives. | Sun-Times Media File Photo
Updated: April 23, 2014 9:08PM
An angry loner “waged a campaign of terror by mail” when he sent threatening letters, shotgun shells and fake anthrax to Chicago politicians and oil company executives, prosecutors said Wednesday.
But a lawyer for Ron Haddad of River Forest say there’s no evidence he mailed the threats to figures including former Mayor Richard M. Daley and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, describing similarities between the anonymous threat letters and Haddad’s online “diary” as entirely coincidental.
Haddad, 38, is standing trial on charges that he sent 28 threatening letters between 2007 and 2009, in which he ranted about Chicago’s controversial parking meter deal, the city’s “spy camera” program and oil prices, threatening to kill politicians if they didn’t lower taxes and leave office.
Some envelopes contained white or brown powder that flew all over the politicians’ office staff when they were opened; others had shotgun shells stuck to firecrackers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Thompson said in his opening statement Wednesday afternoon.
All were “rigged so that they (caused) terror,” Thompson said, describing the fear that office staff felt when they were quarantined while Hazmat workers determined if they’d been poisoned.
Though no fingerprints or DNA that could be linked to Haddad was recovered from the letters, Thompson said, authorities became suspicious when a contractor Haddad had hired forwarded emails in which Haddad threatened River Forest Police, Daley, Blagojevich and the families of oil executives.
A further search of Haddad’s home, where he lived with his parents, revealed a vigilante handbook that explained how not to leave fingerprints and a treasure trove of emails Haddad had sent that used language and expressed political concerns “almost identical” to those in the threatening letters, prosecutors say.
“His words were his fingerprints,” Thompson told jurors.
Read for jurors later Wednesday, one of the disturbing emails Haddad wrote gleefully described how he’d be “100 percent justified” if he carried out a “wonderfully bloody home invasion” in which he attacked the family of an oil executive, “perhaps knifing one of their small children to the wall.”
He appeared to believe his campaign was having an effect on gas prices and that Chicago’s Democratic Party machine had a hand in setting gas prices, the email rants suggested.
Haddad’s trial had been repeatedly delayed because he fired his first four attorneys. Initially declared unfit to stand trial by a psychiatrist who found him to be delusional, he was later deemed fit by four other doctors.
He fired his fifth attorney, Andrea Gambino, on Tuesday, the eve of his trial, electing to represent himself. But he had a last minute change of heart and reinstated her Wednesday morning.
As Gambino laid out Haddad’s defense on Wednesday, her client’s facial tick — a twitching of his left eyebrow — flared up.
Gambino warned jurors that they “may or may not agree with (Haddad’s) political opinions, and you may find some of his language and imagery offensive.” But she said Haddad never made any specific threats in the emails and denied he wrote the threatening letters.
“Words float freely through the universe,” she said, adding that articles about Mayor Daley’s controversial parking meter deal, the city’s security camera program and oil prices were widely published by the media and could have inspired anyone to write the letters.
“There simply isn’t any evidence” directly linking Haddad to the letters, she said.
Though most of the letters were opened by administrative assistants, and not the high-powered politicians and executives to whom they were addressed, prosecutors say former Ald. Bernie Stone and investment banker William Daley, son of former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, will testify about the fear they felt when they opened letters.