The case against disgraced political consultant and possible domestic terrorist Ryan Chamberlain continues to unfold in pre-trial hearings in federal court, and this week federal prosecutors are saying they may add a lethal toxin charge to the indictment against him.
At a hearing Monday, prosecutors say that "high-ranking officials at the U.S. Department of Justice" are mulling the possible charge, which would be added to existing gun and explosive-material possession charges, to which Chamberlain has already pleaded not guilty.
Last we heard, Chamberlain's public defender, Jodi Linker, was arguing several weeks ago that her client should be moved to a mental health facility for immediate treatment that he could not receive while in jail, but the judge presiding in the case, U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria, denied that request and another judge also denied bail for Chamberlain, citing his potential threat to public safety.
Linker has also tried to minimize the threat posed by the alleged bomb, or explosive materials, that were found in Chamberlain's apartment on May 31, saying that the government has not made clear to her how sophisticated or dangerous the device was, as CourtHouse News reports. "Is this a poof or is this a boom?" she asked. "I haven't gotten an answer." She's also questioning the FBI's ability to reconstruct the alleged bomb, assembled using a glass jar, shrapnel, an explosive, and a remote detonator, which they detonated on the premises the day of their search.
This may have led to the government's decision to seek the additional charge against Chamberlain, since it has been established in additional court filings that he was in possession of the lethal toxins abrin and pure nicotine, which were potentially capable of killing hundreds of people. Though Chamberlain was apparently unable to obtain pure abrin, the criminal complaint alleges that a seller from the site Black Market Reloaded who resided in Vacaville, CA, sent Chamberlain a quantity of finely ground rosary peas, which could kill hundreds had the powder been further purified. Also found in his apartment were 20 to 40 castor beans, which are the raw material for making the poison ricin.
The case against Chamberlain, which led to the search of his Russian Hill apartment, the subsequent two-day manhunt, and his arrest at Crissy Field on June 2, originated with the FBI's tracking of criminal activity on black-market websites like the now defunct Silk Road. Other sites on the deep web have popped up to replace it, and the feds have clearly recently been going after individual sellers and buyers in order to prove that they're keeping tabs on these sites. Chamberlain was one of those buyers, and it was only upon searching his home that investigators found the alleged improvised bomb in a messenger bag.
In what appeared to be a suicide note posted online on June 1, Chamberlain admitted to indulging in "morbid fantasies" derived from hours of scouring the internet. He seemed aware that his internet activity was what "attract[ed] the attention of some [FBI] visitors," and at the time sounded intent on ending his own life, which he did not succeed in doing.
It's unclear when Chamberlain's case will ultimately go to trial, but prosecutors said this week that a new, superseding indictment may be ready in three to four weeks, including the new charge. Chamberlain remains in custody.