Man arrested for bomb threat at train station

(The following article by Tony Dobrowolski was posted on the Berkshire Eagle website on September 8.)

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- A 53-year-old computer technician for a Boston-area health service firm was arrested Sunday night after he allegedly made a bomb threat while waiting for a train at Pittsfield's Amtrak station on Depot Street, police said.

John Spence of West Newton Road, Boston, pleaded not guilty to disturbing the peace, possession of marijuana and making a threat to bomb or hijack when he was arraigned yesterday in Central Berkshire District Court.

According to police, Spence was waiting at the Amtrak station to board a Boston-bound train Sunday night, when he told another man who was also waiting for the train that he had explosives in his luggage.

"At the bottom of my bag is where the explosives are," Spence was quoted as saying in a police report of the incident that is on file in District Court.

Attorney George B. Crane, who represented Spence at his arraignment, told the court that police found neither a bomb nor an explosive device in Spence's luggage and that his client was drunk when he made the alleged threat. Crane said Spence had been visiting his 17-year-old son in North Adams and was waiting to board a train to return to Boston when the incident took place.

Following Spence's arraignment, Crane said he understood why police took the threat so seriously.

"In this day and age when someone says the word bomb there's a reaction," Crane said.

Six Pittsfield police officers responded to the scene along with the state police bomb squad unit.

After Spence made his alleged threat on Sunday night, a witness to the incident, identified in court papers as Byron Shock, called police.

At 6:30 p.m., officers arrived at the train station, where Shock identified himself and directed their attention to Spence, who was standing by the railroad tracks and leaning against the station, according to the police report. Spence's luggage, which consisted of two bags, was spotted on the ground between the train station and the railroad tracks,

Spence had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath. "It appeared that he had been drinking," the report states.

Spence denied that he had explosives in his luggage, saying that he was waiting for a train to return to Boston, and had nothing but clothing in his two bags. He told police that "someone must have been trying to set him up," according to the report.

Based on the alleged statement he had made, and the disturbance that it caused, police placed Spence under arrest.

While booking Spence at police headquarters on Allen Street, officers confiscated a marijuana cigarette in the defendant's front shirt pocket.

During questioning by two officers, Spence later admitted that it was likely that he made comments about having explosives in his luggage and that his bag contained dynamite. Spence said he made those statements because he was concerned that Shock was going to touch his bags and because he was frustrated that the Boston-bound train was already three hours late.

Judge Alfred A. Barbalunga set bail for Spence at $5,000 cash or surety bond and continued his case for a pretrial hearing on Oct. 7.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Mulcahy Kemp had asked the court to set bail at $25,000 based on the seriousness of the charges, Spence's few ties to the community, and his previous criminal record.

Mulcahy Kemp said Spence has previous convictions for operating under the influence, third offense, and several motor vehicle-related offenses. Spence also has a criminal record in California, and had defaulted on several previous court appearances, Mulcahy Kemp said.

Crane asked the court to release Spence on personal recognizance, noting that this was defendant's first arrest in 10 years.

"First of all the most important thing is that there was no bomb or explosive device found," Crane said. "This defendant allegedly said to another individual that there was a bomb in my bag, but he was drunk. ... This is not a situation where someone had a bomb or threatened someone with a bomb."

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

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