In the spring of 2014, former local political consultant and onetime Gavin Newsom campaigner Ryan Chamberlain appeared to have spiraled into some kind of psychological abyss. Some forays into the deep web led him, allegedly, to purchase the makings of a bomb, and/or a biological weapon, and an FBI sting into users of the post-Silk Road deep web led to a raid on Chamberlain's Russian Hill apartment on the morning of May 30, 2014. Investigators found the offending materials, and a manhunt began for Chamberlain, who turned out not have gone very far after some drinking in the Lower Haight he was captured at Crissy Field two days later. He's been in jail ever since, and he was scheduled to go to trial this week, with jury selection set to begin Wednesday as CBS 5 reports, until that was canceled when both prosecutors and defense attorneys told the judge they were discussing a plea deal.
Previously, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria denied a motion to move Chamberlain to a mental health facility, saying that he posed too much of a danger to the community to be under potentially lax security.
The feds say that in Chamberlain's apartment they found a messenger bag containing all the pieces necessary to create a remote-controlled improvised explosive device, a gun with its serial number removed, as well as quantities of abrin, ricin, and pure nicotine, any of which could be used in a deadly biological weapon.
The day of his capture, an apparent suicide note that Chamberlain wrote and scheduled to auto-publish appeared online, and in it he said of his state of mind, "I got dark. I got real dark. I explored myriad ways I could put an end to what I was going through." He admitted to dealing with his own apparent depression by "scour[ing] the internet absorbing fuel for morbid fantasies." That apparently led him to the Tor network and Black Market Reloaded site, where he connected with sellers of these dangerous substances whom the FBI was already monitoring.
His defense, however, has tried to cast doubt on the lethality of what was found in Chamberlain's apartment essentially saying that there was no bomb and therefore Chamberlain shouldn't be charged with having an explosive.
Chamberlain, who's now 44, is charged with six felony counts: possession of an unregistered destructive device; possession of a gun with the serial number removed; possession of a biological toxin, abrin, for use as a weapon; possession of an amount of abrin not justified by research or peaceful purposes; possession of an amount of ricin for use as a weapon; and possession of a chemical weapon, sodium cyanide. These charges were expanded and revised over the course of the investigation, and are part of a grand jury indictment from October 2015.
A hearing about Chamberlain's expected change of plea is happening at 1 p.m., and we'll update this post after that happens.
Update: A tipster tells us the plea hearing has now been moved to Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., and clarifies that expert witness testimony in a recent hearing has led the judge to question the charges regarding the abrin and ricin, and perhaps has led to the plea bargaining.