FBI: SF Political Consultant Had Improvised Bomb, Toxic Beans

A federal magistrate in San Francisco ordered a political consultant to be kept in custody today after a prosecutor argued that a homemade bomb allegedly found in his apartment was a “fully functioning, self-contained destructive device” that was “ready to go.”

U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins ruled that Ryan Kelly Chamberlain II, 42, of San Francisco, must remain in pretrial detention for the time being because he poses both a danger to the public and a flight risk.

“No matter what the purpose” of the materials found in Chamberlain’s apartment on May 31, Cousins said, the device had “destructive capacity.”

Also at today’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Kearney revealed publicly for the first time that FBI agents searching Chamberlain’s apartment discovered a package of castor plant beans, which contain the poison ricin, along with the alleged improvised bomb.

The ricin in castor beans is most lethal when made into powder. Kearney told the magistrate that the package contained 20 to 40 beans in their original form.

An FBI affidavit filed earlier in the case alleged that Chamberlain bought two other poisons, abrin and pure nicotine, over the Internet during the past year.

Including the castor beans allegedly found in the apartment, Kearney said, “The government now believes Mr. Chamberlain was actually trying to acquire not one, not two, but three deadly toxins.”

Defense attorney Jodi Linker, saying that Chamberlain needs mental health treatment, asked Cousins to release him for voluntary treatment at San Francisco General Hospital.

“He’s sitting in jail. Someone comes by every couple of days and asks if he wants to kill himself,” said Linker, who argued in previous hearings that Chamberlain urgently needs psychiatric help.

Cousins said, however, that he didn’t have enough information about Chamberlain’s condition to justify releasing him for hospital treatment. He said a full mental health assessment that he ordered on June 6 is due to begin on Wednesday, but a full report won’t be available for two or three weeks.

But Cousins said he is “open to receiving more information” and set another hearing for Thursday afternoon for an update on the case.

Linker also argued that the purposes of the beans and device allegedly found in the search had not been proved.

Kearney alleged that an examination of Chamberlain’s iPhone and iPad showed that he had searched for topics including WMD, ricin, poison, arsenic, killing, homicide and suicide.

Chamberlain is charged in a grand jury indictment with one count of possessing an unregistered destructive device—the alleged bomb—and one count of possessing a gun with the serial number removed.

The indictment, filed Thursday, replaced a previous criminal complaint that had accused him of one count of possessing an illegal destructive device.

Chamberlain, dressed in orange jail clothing, pleaded not guilty today to the two counts in the indictment.

He has been in custody since his arrest in San Francisco on June 2 following a nationwide manhunt that began after the May 31 search of his Nob Hill apartment.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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