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Dumb Thing To Do

A good overview of the Cole Field bombing from iBerkshires: “A Really Dumb Thing To Do

If charged and convicted on the felony charge, the students could face a maximum state prison term of ten years.

Police declined to disclose the type of bomb and the materials used to create it but McGowan did say that an inadvertent mingling of the substances would not have generated in an explosion.

“These materials – even if they combined during transportation – did not pose a threat,” he said during an early afternoon interview at the town police station. The device required assembly before an explosion could result, he said. The device police found was assembled.

A search warrant was issued and executed for a student room at the Pratt resident hall as part of the investigation, McGowan said.

It’s probably been an interesting three weeks for the JAs of these misguided (but almost certainly harmless) first years. That’s why they pay JAs the big bucks. Just like bloggers!

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#1 Comment By outed anon On April 29, 2007 @ 7:25 am

Hopefully they will drop the felony. Do these students have good representation?

#2 Comment By Ronit On April 29, 2007 @ 9:32 am

Hopefully the law will apply equally to all cases.

#3 Comment By ephmom On April 29, 2007 @ 10:24 am

From all indications, this was grounded in curiosity — not misanthropy.

#4 Comment By [space] On April 29, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

Thank you, journalists, for trying to make a big deal out of this. Why would they even mention the Virginia Tech shootings if they didn’t just want to get people riled up? These two cases are not related in the least.

Also, an “infernal machine” implies that there was malicious intent behind the construction of this device. These kids were just messing around in the middle of a field. Stupid, yes, but punishable by jail time? You’ve got to be kidding me.

#5 Comment By Andrew On April 29, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

Actually, I’m pretty sure ‘infernal machine’ is just back-in-the-day-speak for ‘incendiary device’.

#6 Comment By [space] On April 29, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

If you look at the Massachusetts law, it says: “For the purposes of this section, the term “infernal machine” shall mean any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not contrived to ignite or explode automatically.”

#7 Comment By Anonymous On April 29, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

It’s not so much that curiosity always kills the cat but it sometimes results in a long prison sentence.

They are adults and responsible for their actions, but I bet being in prison with other felons will bring new meaning to the term “infernal.” No worries though because they can still earn prison degrees as long as their young bottoms aren’t too sore to sit and study.

#8 Comment By ephmom On April 29, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

No reason for scare tactics. If they admit what they did was not smart, are truly contrite, say they know better and will never do it again, have not done this sort of thing before, and have good lawyers — it shouldn’t be so bad.

#9 Comment By [space] On April 29, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

Whoever commented right after me, who didn’t even bother to leave a pseudonym, would you really have these college students thrown in jail for something as minor as this? You’re insane, or, more likely, just bitter. I’m sure you yell at little kids to get off your lawn, right? Maybe even wave a baseball bat at them?

#10 Comment By Anonymous On April 29, 2007 @ 8:42 pm

Are there precedents on this? I couldn’t find any that were applicable after a *very* cursory googling.

#11 Comment By law is law On April 29, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

That they are college students wouldn’t get them off the hook for stealing cars or assault, so why should they get a free ride after making an infernal device?

If you would rather allow college students to build bombs then petition your government to change the law.

#12 Comment By [space] On April 29, 2007 @ 9:56 pm

Thats the point I’m trying to make, “law.” It wasn’t an infernal device. It was not intended to casue harm to others, and it was not intended to damage or destroy property.

The question I’m asking is, why are you trying to over-prosecute these college students? Your wish to see these kids thrown in jail seems a little over-zealous.

#13 Comment By Ronit On April 29, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

[space]: Without knowing any of the details of this case, we can’t judge from the vague statements in the press. We certainly don’t know anything about their intentions, and I think recent events should make use cautious about assuming that all Williams students will always act with benign intentions.

As I said earlier, I hope the law will apply fairly to these students. If they are found guilty by a court of constructing an infernal machine, then they should go to prison.

#14 Comment By nMo On April 29, 2007 @ 10:36 pm

Ronit – Prosecutorial discretion is a huge part of our legal system. It isn’t nearly as simple as “if they technically broke the letter of the law, they should suffer the full consequences.”

Everyone needs to take a step back and try to figure out what the real intent here is – that is the key.

#15 Comment By ephmom On April 29, 2007 @ 10:38 pm

“constructing an infernal machine”

Actually, since it didn’t work, it wasn’t technically an “infernal machine.” Unless the state considers a failed device to still be an infernal machine.

They should have asked a chemistry professor to sponsor them so that their experiment might have been more successful — and legal.

#16 Comment By [space] On April 29, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

Well, it still wasn’t an infernal machine because it wasn’t designed to hurt anyone or anything…

And Ronit, I know more about this than is in the press, without saying anything else.

#17 Comment By justitia omnibus On April 29, 2007 @ 11:49 pm

A infernal machine does not lose its attributes as a machine when it stops working. If your car’s engine fails upon first use, it was still intended as a car despite no longer functioning.

An infernal machine need not be designed to hurt anyone, but can also be a device that can do unusual damage to properly by fire or explosion. If the bomb the students made was in fact a bomb, then it operates by fire or explosion which will cause unusual damage to property. That’s precisely why the police are seeking the felony charges.

The students will likely be able to plead out to reduced charges if they have no similar priors, but they won’t beat the case on the merits.

I’ll see if it is possible to get their names from the show-cause hearings to see what interesting gossip folks can dig up on these characters.

#18 Comment By ephmom On April 29, 2007 @ 11:55 pm

“to see what interesting gossip folks can dig up on these characters.”

It’ll probably be a waste of time: there are no indications these are misanthropic hate-mongers.

#19 Comment By [space] On April 30, 2007 @ 12:24 am

It seems to me that an “infernal machine” implies intent to harm, not capability.

And yeah, what are you looking to find? There’s not going to be anything excting, but I’m sure people will find something to complain about.

#20 Comment By concerned On April 30, 2007 @ 1:01 am

The misanthropic hate-monger mass shooters are mostly mental cases and on meds. There is growing evidence that the meds themselves seem to spur a bad reaction in at least a small percent of users. It will be interesting to see what the next decade of medical research can find on this link.

It seems to me that these students were really building a bomb and wanted to test it on campus which led to their capture. Does that not make you wonder about the content of their character? Their actions were reckless and could have endangered the campus community. It would be good to know what else they have done in their lives that we can discuss and document as this case goes to trial and further details emerge.

#21 Comment By ephmom On April 30, 2007 @ 1:06 am

“these students were really building a bomb”

How do you know that? I’ve heard it was something along the lines of pyrotechnics — but neither of us actually knows what it was. The facts will be presented in the hearing.

#22 Comment By ephmom On April 30, 2007 @ 1:09 am

“could have endangered the campus community”

If they really, really wanted to endanger the campus community, they would have tried to set it off a lot closer to Paresky than out on Cole Field.

#23 Comment By ad litem On April 30, 2007 @ 1:15 am

The definition of an infernal machine isn’t really up to interpretation as it is defined by the General Laws of Massachusetts (Chapter 266: Section 102A) and supported by case law.

Lightweight plastic garbage bags containing gasoline constitute an infernal machine.
7 Mass.App.Ct. 715, 389 N.E.2d 1034

There is no express requirement in the statute of an intent to use the device for an illicit purpose. The cigarette package, filled with explosive gunpowder, and disguised to appear harmless, could not reasonably be regarded as having any innocent use.
23 Mass.App.Ct. 1006, 505 N.E.2d 215

#24 Comment By Ronit On April 30, 2007 @ 1:23 am

That’s an interesting standard. I would agree that a homemade fertilizer bomb “could not reasonably be regarded as having any innocent use.”

If it had gone off, I doubt that we would be willing to dismiss the explosion as being innocent hijinks.

#25 Comment By ephmom On April 30, 2007 @ 1:33 am

“If it had gone off”

How serious were they about building a bomb? If truly intent on destruction, they would have engaged the help of someone who actually knew enough about bomb-making — or learned more about it themselves — to produce one that was viable.

#26 Comment By nMo On April 30, 2007 @ 1:42 am

Seems to me that the kids from ‘October Sky’ would have been arrested under this law….

#27 Comment By nMo On April 30, 2007 @ 1:49 am

Ok, this may have been posted above – but here is the exact definition from the statute

For the purposes of this section, the term “infernal machine” shall mean any device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion, whether or not contrived to ignite or explode automatically.

I am not familiar with mass statutory law, but it seems to me that an accurate translation of this part of the statute is “any device created with the intent to endanger life or to do unusual damage to property.”

As I said before – it all comes down to why these guys built this thing. I just caution everyone to not jump to conclusions – innocent till proven guilty…

#28 Comment By ’10 On April 30, 2007 @ 2:23 am

The only punishment the bombmakers deserve is imposed failure in their chemistry class (and yeah, I’m pretty sure all of them are currently taking chem). It’s a bit embarrassing that three of my classmates can’t even put together a simple bomb properly.

#29 Comment By Anonymous On April 30, 2007 @ 3:10 am

Bomb instructions can be easily downloaded from the internet. Perhaps these students were building bombs on campus for their own knowledge, but such activity still constitutes an infernal machine and is a crime.

#30 Comment By Jav On April 30, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

I disagree with the above poster in their interpretation of Mass law on the subject. It doesn’t really matter, from a black and white perspective, what the intent of the explosive device was; at least as far as conviction goes. Intent will play a HUGE role in sentencing, as another poster mentioned. Prosecutorial discretion and all that.

#31 Comment By Pete On April 30, 2007 @ 6:12 pm

I encourage everyone to contact Chief Kyle Johnson at the Williamstown Police Department 413-458-5733 to urge a forceful prosecution of these bomb-making criminals. Such threats to the community should not be tolerated. These youths should face the full prosecutorial weight of the law.

#32 Comment By eph supporter On April 30, 2007 @ 6:18 pm

“to urge a forceful prosecution of these bomb-making criminals. Such threats to the community”

So when were you appointed judge? And what is your place in the community, “pete”?

#33 Comment By [space] On April 30, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

Pete: You are, if you excuse my French, fucking insane. They are not threats to the community, and hardly more criminals than you are when you get a parking ticket.

Some people here need to lighten up and realize that these people were not doing this out of malice or intent to harm anyone. Since when did it become so cool to hate college kids, anyway?

#34 Comment By nMo On April 30, 2007 @ 7:49 pm


I guess it all comes down to what ‘for’ means. I don’t know the answer – what do you think?

#35 Comment By Pete On May 1, 2007 @ 1:46 am

I don’t hate college kids, and I’m sure most college kids are responsible and don’t harm others. In this case, building and trying to detonate a bomb on campus is hardly something that can be endorsed. They created a real harm for everyone and this should not be shrugged off as a trivial prank or innocent learning experience.

#36 Comment By Anonymous On May 1, 2007 @ 1:49 am

“They created a real harm for everyone”

And just how are you so certain that you know all the facts?

#37 Comment By [space] On May 1, 2007 @ 9:33 am

I agree with the post above me. How, do tell, did they “create a real harm for everyone”?

#38 Comment By Anonymous On May 1, 2007 @ 11:31 am

Bombs are hardly something that is safe on campus or anywhere. No one wants bomb builders around their children creating a threat to their safety.

Lock up the mad bombers and we’ll all be a little safer. These reckless students do not belong at Williams or anywhere in civilization.

#39 Comment By Anonymous On May 1, 2007 @ 11:37 am

[space] I wouldn’t let the trolls push your buttons. It’s most likely Nazi sympathizers trying to deflect attention from their debacle.

#40 Comment By [space] On May 1, 2007 @ 1:26 pm

11:31 — Maybe you should ask the kids that live around and know these people if they feel threatened before jumping to conclusions, hmm? I know I certainly don’t.

You don’t even live on campus; you won’t be any safer by carrying out unwarranted retribution on these students, so don’t even try to play that card.

And again, since you apparently can’t or won’t read what people are saying, the only people that were threatened by this were the three kids themselves. Williams students face a far greater risk of succumbing to alcohol poisoning than getting blown up on any given weekend.

11:37 — I honestly don’t mind, the internet is basically for arguing with people. Especially when, in your view, they happen to be spouting ideas that are, for lack of a better word, wrong.

#41 Comment By Anonymous On May 1, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

[space]: If your friends ask David Kane nicely (and they haven’t intentionally offended a lot of their classmates), their names won’t appear in this blog after they become a matter of public record.

#42 Comment By [space] On May 1, 2007 @ 7:57 pm

Hmm. Maybe I’ll ask them about that.