SAN DIEGO (AP) — An unemployed software consultant who stockpiled huge amounts of powerful explosives in his suburban home was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns imposed the mandatory minimum sentence to brandishing a firearm while robbing a bank for George Jakubec, though the judge said the punishment seemed a little excessive. Other charges were dropped under a plea agreement in which Jakubec admitted storing the explosives and robbing several banks.
The defendant said nothing at his sentencing and told his attorney not to discuss his motives. He looked frail with a mane of wavy, gray hair and thick-rimmed glasses and, at one point, sat down because he appeared unstable on his feet.
"He had so many things going for him," said his attorney Michael Berg. "He's very, very smart. He had a good job, was making good money, and something just basically broke down."
Jakubec, 55, was arrested in November after a gardener stepped on residue in his backyard in Escondido, suffering eye, chest and arm injuries. Authorities were forced to destroy the home in a carefully orchestrated burn that played out on television screens across the U.S.
Rees Morgan, an assistant U.S. attorney, said an exhaustive investigation found no evidence that the immigrant from former Yugoslavia was a terrorist or that he even intended to hurt anyone or damage property.
Berg drew parallels with Hollywood characters whose normal lives suddenly implode, like Michael Douglas' in "Falling Down" or Peter Finch's in "Network."
"His spirit is broken, mentally, physically," Berg said.
Jakubec acknowledged making and storing nine detonators, 13 grenade hulls and large quantities of the highly unstable Hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMDT, which can explode by someone stepping on it. He admitted having significant amounts of Pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, the explosive used in the 2001 airliner shoe-bombing attempt.
Burns recalled reading documents in the case and thinking, "My goodness, this is quite a midlife crisis."
"I want to put this in the right context, you're not the shoe bomber," he said.
Letters to the judge from Jakubec's wife and others portray a man who was despondent about losing his job in his early 50s.
"George told me that unemployment makes him feel useless and worthless — a terrible feeling for a man who worked hard all his life and was successful and well-liked at work," said Maria Ivanova, his wife of 11 years who met her husband on the Internet and moved from Russia to marry him. She called him a wonderful, loving husband.
Ivanova, who did not attend the sentencing, wrote that her husband's anxiety about unemployment led to obsessive hoarding of electronic components.
"He was out of control, he kept bringing things into the house, and our home was filling up with piles of junk," she wrote. "I was very worried about George and his sanity. I was praying and hoping that once George gets a job, this hoarding behavior would stop."
Jakubec came to the U.S. in 1971, when he was 15, according to cousin Paul Abelovski. He attended San Diego State University and worked for computer maker Burroughs Corp. and information technology company Unisys Corp.
Jakubec excelled at work, William Jasper, a former co-worker at Burroughs, wrote the judge. Later, he got a general contractor's license and built and sold upscale San Diego-area homes.
"It seemed that sometime after the turn of the century George's career ceased to flourish," Jasper wrote.
Jakubec pleaded guilty to brandishing a firearm while he robbed a Bank of America branch in San Diego of $42,012 in November 2009 and returning with a firearm to the same branch two weeks later in an attempted robbery that was foiled when he spotted a security guard.
Jakubec acknowledged in his plea agreement that he also robbed other Bank of America San Diego branches last year of $1,480 and $10,400.
Under his plea agreement, Jakubec agreed to reimburse San Diego County the $541,000 it cost authorities to destroy the home. Burns scheduled a hearing to determine if that was necessary, considering that Jakubec was in no position to pay.
"If he were Donald Trump, then I'd stick him with it," the judge said. "All it is at this point is symbolic."
This is a breaking news alert. The previous story is below.
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man who manufactured bombs and stored large amounts of explosives in his rented home in North County, which had to be destroyed, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday in a federal courtroom.
George Djura Jakubec, 55, pleaded guilty in March to carrying a firearm during a bank robbery and attempted bank robbery, and admitted in a statement of facts that he made nine detonators, 13 grenade hulls and 22 other destructive devices and stored them at the Escondido residence.
Investigators and attorneys have disclosed no motive for the defendant's bomb-making activities at the house he shared with his wife. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns could sentence Jakubec to a maximum 30 years in prison.
Jakubec admitted being armed with a loaded firearm when he robbed a Bank of America in San Diego of $43,000 on Nov. 13, 2009. He also pleaded guilty to being armed and going into the same bank two weeks later and trying to rob the financial institution, but leaving when he saw a security guard.
As part of his plea, Jakubec also admitted robbing a Bank of America on Scranton Road in San Diego of $1,480 on June 25, 2010, and stealing $10,400 from another BofA branch on Carmel Mountain Road last July 17.
Jakubec will have to repay the county of San Diego $541,000 for the cost of burning down the rental house and making the area safe before it was set on fire.
Defense attorney Michael Berg said that Jakubec felt vindicated because he didn't have to plead guilty to charges relating to the unlawful manufacture of possession of destructive devices.
Jakubec was arrested last Nov. 18 after a landscaper was seriously injured by stepping on some stones outside the home, detonating some volatile chemicals.
The cache of compounds possessed by Jakubec included substances used by suicide bombers and the so-called underwear and shoe bombers, authorities have said.
A state prosecutor who handled the case before it was turned over to federal authorities described the cache as the "largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives ever found at one place in the United States."
Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez said Jakubec turned the rental home in unincorporated Escondido into a "bomb factory."
The discovery of the stockpile prompted then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to declare the San Diego region a disaster area. Likewise, the county Board of
Supervisors ratified a local emergency declaration over the dicey situation.
After weighing the risks posed by the explosive chemicals, sheriff's officials decided that burning down the house was the only reasonably safe way to dispose of the hazardous substances.
On the morning of the Dec. 9 controlled burn, deputies closed roads in the neighborhood and evacuated dozens of surrounding residences before a bomb squad remotely ignited the condemned home via a series of charges placed throughout it.
The resulting blaze reduced the house to a pile of smoldering rubble within about 90 minutes. Over the subsequent several weeks, environmental health personnel had to complete an exhaustive soil cleanup on the parcel where the contaminated home had stood.
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