Bomb-maker apologises for his dangerous hobby

Pittsburgh – A Russian-born, former college student facing a two-year prison sentence for building bombs without a federal license in his apartment told a judge he now recognises his “dangerous hobby” was “reckless and childish”.

Vladislav Miftakhov, 19, is scheduled for sentencing on Friday before a federal judge.

Miftakhov has been jailed since police acted on a landlord’s tip that he was growing marijuana in his apartment near the Penn State-Altoona campus on 24 January.

Police found the pot plants, as well as bomb-making materials, including an unexploded device containing about 200 grams of volatile chemicals in the apartment.

Public defender Christopher Brown contends much of the legal scrutiny the case received from prosecutors and the media was fuelled by the Boston Marathon bombings nine months earlier. The two bombing suspects are young men who, like Miftakhov, are Russian-born, but unlike Miftakhov, were allegedly motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs.

Brown contends Miftakhov’s lifelong fascination with fireworks is a byproduct of being raised in an environment of “science and engineering”, with his parents and stepfather having advanced degrees in physics and engineering from schools in the United States and Russia. Miftakhov emigrated from that country when he was 4.

In a two-page letter apologising for and explaining his actions, Miftakhov told US District Judge Kim Gibson he realised the danger he posed.

“Having parents and friends that are physicists and engineers, my activities in pyrotechnics were not seen as suspicious or serious,” Miftakhov wrote. “These factors caused me to develop a dangerous hobby over my teenage years and despite my efforts to be careful and cautious… my actions were reckless and childish.”

The charge Miftakhov pleaded guilty to in July, manufacturing an explosive device without a license, carries up to 10 years in prison, a $250 000 fine and three years of probation. Prosecutors and Brown have agreed on a two-year sentence, which the judge must still approve.

Assistant US Attorney James Kitchen previously argued Miftakhov’s intentions weren’t clear because, among other things, police found “anarchy” symbols in his apartment and a note saying, “If you find this, you will never find me,” rolled up and stored inside a bullet casing.

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